Shaping Cambodia-China: “Special” Relations: Bilateral and Regional Frameworks

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In 2019, Cambodia was the first country to sign an Action Plan with China to create a “community of shared future with strategic importance”. The article comprehensively covers the gradual changes in the relations between the Kingdom of Cambodia and the PRC (since 1990s), which resulted in the formation of their “special” relations, and the factors that influenced them. The author assesses bilateral and regional significance of these “special” relations. Their development is considered against the background of internal processes in Cambodia, changes in China’s policy in Southeast Asia, and the international situation in the region.

The author has identified the following milestones in the Cambodia–China relations: the July 1997 events in Cambodia, which resulted in establishing undivided governmentauthority by the prime-minister Hun Sen; the first visit of China’s Chairman Jiang Zemin to Cambodia in November 2000; bilateral agreements on Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership (April 2008) and Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership (December 2010); 2012 Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship, when it completely supported China in the South China Sea disputes, despite interests of some ASEAN members; the 2013–2014 political crisis in Cambodia; and, finally, 2019 bilateral agreement to establish “a community of shared destiny with a strategic meaning”.

China’s political support, grants, soft loans and assistance in implementation of large infrastructural projects has had positive impact on Cambodia’s economic development. However, they have led to Cambodia’s dependence on China. While ASEAN and its nation-members implement strategies of hedging and balancing to avoid regional domination of any great power, Cambodia completely took China’s side. Relations with China have become more important to Cambodia than relations with other ASEAN nations. Since decisions in ASEAN are taken by consensus, Cambodia may block any one, which does not benefit China. This situation strengthens China’s regional position, but disrupts ASEAN unity that is crucial for regional security in Southeast Asia. Additionally, “special” relations with Cambodiaprovide China with access to its strategic ports in trade and economic, and military purposes to realize its economic and strategic interests.


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How to Cite
Gorodnia, N. (2023) “Shaping Cambodia-China: ‘Special’ Relations: Bilateral and Regional Frameworks”, Problems of World History, (23), pp. 113–135. doi: 10.46869/2707-6776-2023-23-6.
Author Biography

N. Gorodnia

Gorodnia Natalia – Doctor of Historical Sciences, Professor of Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv


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