China has agreed to study the possibility of creating more special economic zones (SEZ) in Cambodia, while pledging to encourage Chinese companies to invest in the Kingdom, as well as expanding agricultural imports from Cambodia.

The agreements were reached during a meeting between Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi and Cambodian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Sok Chenda Sophea during his first visit to China from May 23-25, at the invitation of his counterpart.

“With the aim of further expanding economic relations and cooperation, Wang welcomed Chenda Sophea’s proposals for the Chinese side to explore the possibility of expanding or establishing more SEZs in Cambodia.

“Wang also pledged to encourage Chinese companies and enterprises to invest in Cambodia, and increase the import of agricultural products from Cambodia,” the foreign ministry said, in a May 27 press release.

The ministry added that the Chinese side had reiterated its support for technical and vocational training to increase the number of skilled workers in Cambodia.

It said China also reaffirmed its support for major infrastructure development projects in Cambodia, including transportation, logistics and irrigation systems, such as the “strategically important Funan Techo Canal”.

The two sides agreed to further promote cooperation in key and potential areas, including education, tourism, agriculture, connectivity, the digital economy and artificial intelligence (AI).

In addition to meeting with Wang, Chenda Sophea met with Chinese vice-president Han Zheng and the National Energy Administration chairman Zhang Jianhua.

“Chenda Sophea and the Chinese leaders valued the way the ironclad friendship and excellent cooperation between the two countries is going from strength to strength, encouraged by frequent high-level exchanges of visits and communication,” added the ministry.

The two sides agreed to increase their exchanges and communication through both the executive and legislative frameworks, while the Chinese leaders underscored their continued support for Cambodia’s choice of a development path which is suited to the Kingdom’s national conditions, while also playing a more important role on the international stage.

The Cambodian side reiterated its principled position and adherence to the “One China Policy”. It considers Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang as Chinese internal affairs and will continue to support China’s active role in international affairs. 

“Both sides recognised the importance of people-to-people exchanges, as well as cultural exchanges and agreed to work closely to enhance these exchanges, especially among the youth,” the ministry added.

Chenda Sophea and Zhang vowed to advance the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation within the Diamond cooperation framework, with a focus on clean energy development, which is crucial for supporting the development of the “Industrial and Technological Corridor” and “Fish and Rice Corridor”.  

Thong Mengdavid, a lecturer at the Royal University of Phnom Penh’s Institute for International Studies, told The Post that the momentum of Chinese trade and investment cooperation in Cambodia is growing steadily. He noted that since the signing of the Cambodia-China free market agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Cambodia has increased its agricultural exports to China.

“China is the largest market in Asia. We need to increase exports of products as well as increase employment opportunities and additional investment from Chinese companies.

“Under the Hexagon Cooperation, Cambodia expects China to increase its investment in infrastructure and increase imports of Cambodian agricultural products. It also believes China will boost cooperation in skills development through increased cooperation with the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training,” he said.