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PM Returns from China with Renewed Commitment from Both Sides

PHNOM PENH: Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet is back from his first official visit to China where he met with the country’s most powerful men to strengthen ties between towards what they say is a shared common destiny.

From September 14-16, Prime Minister Hun Manet met with the chairmen of China’s largest business investors to the Kingdom in addition to its heads of state, including President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Qiang and Congressional Speaker Zhao Leji.

A joint press release from the Chinese and Cambodian governments detailed the main talking points of both sides and included issues like economic synergy, developing Cambodian infrastructure and rejecting “outside interference” on internal affairs for both countries, reinforcing the One-China policy.

Their discussions on trade focused on the “Fish and Rice Corridor” which promised that modern agricultural demonstration zones will be established in Cambodia and exchanges in digital agriculture will be carried out. There will be a particular focus on fish, rice, tropical fruits, vegetables, and agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, pesticides and animal feed. A priority for exporting Cambodian agriculture is on food safety and negotiations on quarantine protocols for food shipped to China.

In terms of development, both sides agreed to continue investing in Sihanoukville as a model of Special Economic Zones throughout the country, especially in the fields of agro-industries, transportation infrastructure, electricity, energy and manufacturing. China agreed to support railroad development in Cambodia, while also helping to conduct studies on advancing roads, sewage treatment and electricity and power grids.

In return Cambodia reinforced its loyalty to the One-China Policy which recognizes Taiwan as an inalienable part of Chinese territory. The Cambodian government said it opposes “any form of separatist activities seeking ‘Taiwan independence’” and promised not to develop any form of official relations with Taiwan. Attempts to oppose the One-China Policy are categorized as “interference in other countries’ internal affairs” which is a strict tenant of ASEAN countries. According to the joint Cambodia-China statement, “Both sides express firm opposition to politicization of human rights, double standards and interference in other countries' internal affairs under the guise of human rights or democracy.”

Recent controversy in the South China Sea was discussed and both parties concluded that “the situation in the South China Sea has maintained overall stability” despite rising tensions in the area as China occupies disputed waters. The joint statement warned, “Any attempt to use the South China Sea issue to undermine regional peace, stability and trust is counterproductive and should be avoided.” That said, both sides agreed to safeguard the international system with the principles of the UN Charter at its core.

The Cambodian and Chinese leaders also discussed boosting tourism and cultural exchanges, particularly in youth programs. In the end, both sides signed several cooperation documents towards building a bilateral future in what they call the “new era” through economic policies and a shared vision of stability, friendship and cooperation.

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