Saturday, February 10, 2007

China & Two tales of Hun Sen

China, which Hun Sen referred to as "the root of everything that was evil in Cambodia" in an essay he penned in 1988, nonetheless came to his government's rescue. Longtime Cambodia watcher Julio Jeldres notes that China was the first country to recognize the change of regime after the July 1997 coup, and in December of that year, Beijing delivered 116 military cargo trucks and 70 jeeps valued at US$2.8 million. In February 1999, Hun Sen paid an official visit to China and obtained $200 million in interest-free loans and $18.3 million in foreign-assistance guarantees.

Since then, China has emerged as a major donor to Cambodia and - unlike aid from the West - Chinese assistance comes with no strings attached for promoting democracy or good governance. China is also a major investor in Cambodia, mainly in the garment industry, but also in agriculture, mining, hotels and tourism. Cambodia's dependence on the West will most likely further diminish when newly found oil and gas reserves come onstream.

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