Sok Chenda Sophea, secretary-general of the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC), said the close diplomatic relations between China and the Kingdom – as reflected by their “ironclad friendship” that has developed into a “diamond cooperation framework” – are the firm foundation for their strong economic ties. China is now Cambodia’s largest trading partner, and also its largest source of capital investment and tourism.

Chenda Sophea made the remarks during his August 12 working meeting with a Chinese delegation led by foreign minister Wang Yi, according to a CDC press release.

“The visit is intended to strengthen and expand ties and cooperation to provide the maximum mutual benefits for the people of the two countries,” it said.

At the meeting, Wang also highlighted Cambodia’s rapid development and spoke highly of the government’s achievements, especially the acquisition of large amounts of foreign investment.

“[Wang] described the excellent cooperation between the two nations as being facilitated through bilateral dialogues and the exchange of study visits, along with a positive response to the implementation framework of the ‘Belt and Road’ Initiative [BRI],” added the statement.

The top Chinese diplomat was quoted as saying that Cambodia’s new investment laws and their legal framework, along with the fact that the China-Cambodia Free Trade Agreement (CCFTA) has come into force, as well as the diplomatic upgrade to a “diamond cooperation framework”, will further boost the bilateral relations and produce even more brilliant results.

Cambodia Chamber of Commerce (CCC) vice-president Lim Heng said on August 13 that the improvement of Sino-Cambodian relations has drawn Chinese investors and tourists to the Kingdom.

CDC secretary-general Sok Chenda Sophea (right) shakes hands with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi during their meeting in Phnom Penh on August 12. INFORMATION MINISTRY

“The number of Chinese companies doing business in Cambodia has steadily increased. They are present in almost every sector. The increase in the arrival of Chinese investment is due to the close relations between thetwo governments, which have been upgraded from an ‘ironclad friendship’ to a ‘diamond cooperation framework’,” he explained.

“The sectors which are attracting Chinese investors include infrastructure construction, textiles, agro-processing and agro-industry, mineral resources, as well as electrical equipment and electronic components,” he said.

In July, China’s largest payment company, Union Pay, and the National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to allow Chinese tourists to make payments through “KHQR codes” anywhere in Cambodia through the former’s partners, including WeChat and AliPay. Cambodian visitors to China will also benefit from a reciprocal agreement.

NBC governor Chea Serey described the initiative as way of promoting the use of riel.

“Importantly, sellers in Cambodia must have KHQR that will receive riel, and those who want to spend their money in China should have a riel current account,” he said.

According to the CDC, in 2022, it approved 186 new investment and expansion projects worth around $4 billion, with China accounting for 42 per cent, representing 90.5 per cent of the total foreign direct investment (FDI).

From January to April this year, 65 projects worth $588 million had been approved, with China accounting for 60 per cent of the total – close to 75 per cent of the FDI.