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Analysts See Close Ties in Cambodia-China Anniversary Letters


China's Premier Li Keqiang, left, pulls a symbol of China-Cambodia Heart Journey, together with his Cambodian counterpart Hun Sen, center, during a signing ceremony at Peace Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2018.

The leaders pointed to the One Belt, One Road initiative, a Chinese initiative that will connect the economies of Southeast Asia with large infrastructure projects.

As Cambodia and China celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations this month, the countries’ top leaders exchanged letters of congratulations. Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang said they were confident that the ruling Cambodian People’s Party could secure victory in the general election on Sunday.

Political analysts have mixed views over the state of Cambodia-China relations as the Southeast Asian nation approaches what could be a pivotal election period in the absence of the main opposition party, which was banned by the Supreme Court in November.

Meas Nee, a political analyst in Cambodia, said China was becoming very close to Cambodia to advance its political and economic interests in the region, while the Cambodian leadership had more limited ambitions: staying in power.

He added that China had poured more than a billion dollars into Cambodia over the past decade aimed in part at propping up Hun Sen’s government.

“Up until now it seems to be clear that the election in a week will be a victory for the ruling party,” he said, “and so there is no doubt that any party can compete and what people are looking to see is whether the smaller parties can win some seats.”

Chheang Vannarith, a regional affairs analyst, said the letter exchanged showed that “strategic trust” between the two countries was at an all-time high.

The leaders pointed to the One Belt, One Road initiative, a Chinese initiative that will connect the economies of Southeast Asia with large infrastructure projects. “The mutual support partnership is being continuously enriched, bringing real and positive benefits to the people of both countries,” an unofficial translation of one of the letters reads.

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