China-Cambodia relations stronger than ever: experts

China and Cambodia have vowed to jointly uphold multilateralism and fairer global governance in opposition to the encircling of small groups of countries that force some to take sides while ambushing others, senior officials said at a high-level forum held in Beijing on Wednesday. It came amid escalating tension in China-US relations, as the US’ Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin headed to Southeast Asia to seek alliances.

The Second Cambodia-China Think Tank High-Level Forum, jointly hosted by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS) and the Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC,) was held in Beijing on Wednesday through online and in-person meetings.

Huang Kunming, head of the Publicity Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), appreciated the unconditional support from Cambodia, which has defended the truth on matters concerning China’s core interests in the face of Western countries’ incessant smearing.

“The two sides will join hands in dealing with global affairs, opposing zero-sum games and a Cold War mentality. We reject the encircling of small groups that force some to take sides while ambushing others, and call for fair, justified global governance that is based on the UN Charter and international law,” Huang said in his opening remarks at the forum.

He added that both countries will continue strengthening coordination in regional and global anti-epidemic efforts, and reject vaccine nationalism or any political manipulation on the issue of tracing coronavirus origins.

By June, China had offered Cambodia a total of 8.7 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, the Global Times learned at the event.

Being Cambodia’s largest investor over the last 10 years, China has seen a more robust partnership with Cambodia on various fronts, including unrelenting efforts in fighting the epidemic.

In 2020, bilateral trade volume reached $9.56 million, a year-on-year increase of 1.4 percent. In the first five months of 2021, the bilateral trade volume reached $3.9 billion, a 25 percent surge compared with the same period last year, the Global Times learned at the forum.

The two sides signed a free trade agreement in October 2020. It was the first such agreement that Cambodia had ever signed, as well as China’s first after the pandemic broke out.

Elaborating on the slashing of tariffs under the agreement, Yi Xiaozhun, former vice minister of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, said that China will eventually realize zero tariffs almost 98 percent of all its products. In terms of specific products, China has cut tariffs mainly on products that are of interest to Cambodia, including clothing, footwear, leather and rubber.

Deputy Prime Minister of Cambodia Bin Chhin spoke highly of the relationship, saying that China and Cambodia have “reached the best historical moment at an unprecedented level.”

Addressing the forum via video link, Bin Chhin stressed that Cambodia will always respect China’s sovereignty and the one-China policy, and support the Belt and Road Initiative and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.

He reaffirmed Prime Minister Hun Sen’s statements on the importance of “vaccine multilateralism” against the pandemic.

Cambodia is among the 55 countries that have submitted letters to the World Health Organization Director-General concerning the COVID-19 origins study and jointly opposing politicization of the issue.


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