Cambodia’s role with China

The Khmer Times, 28 September 2016

The world economy is entering a new phase of uncertainties, driven by rising nationalist populism and protectionism in different parts of the world.
The main advocates of global economic liberalization such as the United States and the United Kingdom have become more inward looking and protectionist.
One of the shortcomings of the neo-liberal economic system is the widening development gap or inequality as a result of unjust, unfair, unsustainable development.
Only a few people at the top enjoy the lion’s share of the growth because the political and economic systems are not inclusive.
There is a need to look for an innovative development path based on a new economic model which is more inclusive, sustainable and people-centered.
China, the beneficiary of globalization, particularly after joining the World Trade Organization in 2001, is now the catalyst of an open economic global system.
In September 2013, China’s president announced a Silk Road Economic Belt in Kazakhstan and in October in the same year, he unveiled the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road in Indonesia.
The two initiatives were integrated into a “One Belt, One Road” plan and later renamed the “Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI). The BRI constitutes the core element of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s grand strategy and also reflects China’s efforts at deepening its reforms and opening up, as well as spearheading win-win cooperation ideal.
The BRI is believed to be able to play a critical role in enabling inclusive global growth and shaping a new global economic order by the promotion of an inclusive and open economic system in which every country can take part and share the benefits.
Cambodia was one of the first countries to express strong support for the “Belt and Road” initiative proposed by China three years ago. It was also one of the first countries to join the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).
Cambodia’s interests include getting international development assistance, especially from China, in infrastructure development, trade, investment flow and tourism. China is Cambodia’s key strategic and development partner.
Over the past three years, Cambodia has received remarkable financial assistance from China in infrastructure development. The construction of the Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone is the main showcase of the projects under the “Belt and Road” initiative.
A progress report produced by the Renmin University of China this month showed significant progress had been made in terms of top-level design, policy coordination, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial mobilization and people-to-people ties.
The BRI upholds the spirit of peace, cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit. It calls for all countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” to participate, to work and share benefits together in a bid to realize an inclusive and sustainable development.
The vision of the initiative has been crafted and elaborated on at length by China, but the understanding among key stakeholders – political leaders, entrepreneurs and civil society leaders in the countries and regions along the “Belt and Road” region – remains limited.
The initiative is part of China’s oriental wisdom and foreign policy vision of building a community of common destiny which incorporates mutual respect, mutual understanding, mutual trust, mutual support and mutual benefits.
Collective leadership is required to effectively implement this initiative. So far, China has taken a leading role in promoting and implementing the initiative, but as the old Chinese saying goes, “It takes more than one tree to make a forest,” and this is not sufficient.
Synergizing and synchronizing the initiative with global governance agenda, especially the UN Sustainable Development Goals, existing regional and sub-regional mechanisms and the national development strategy of the members and regions along the “Belt and Road” are the foundations of its long-term implementation.
With a clear vision, collective leadership, enhanced policy coordination and institutional harmonization, the BRI will generate more fruitful results.
Being an active member of the BRI and AIIB, Cambodia has expanded its economic development horizon. However, it needs to strengthen its leadership and governance to maximize the opportunities.

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