The Political Economy of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative in Cambodia

  • Pheakdey Heng
  • Vannarith Chheang
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Asia-Pacific Political Economy book series (PASTAPPE)


Cambodia is one of the most enthusiastic backers of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI) and maintains very close bonds with its northern neighbor. The MSRI has something to do with the latter given it can advance Cambodia’s quest to grow and become a more skills-based economy connected with global value chains. Still, the warm relationship is not just based on the MSRI or Cambodia’s economic ties with China. Phnom Penh’s very positive stance towards Beijing also has to do with the help it gives the regime in fending off pressures. The longer-term political implications of the MSRI will depend upon how well Cambodia manages associated issues, if MSRI projects ensnare Cambodia in a “debt trap,” and the extent to which Cambodian sovereignty anxieties intensify.



The authors thank the editor for his feedback and editorial work and also express their appreciation to Xu Jing for her assistance in conforming this chapter to publisher style requirements.


  1. “‘ASEAN Way’ Founders in South China Sea Storm.” Reuters, July 17, 2012.
  2. Blanchard, Jean-Marc F., and Colin Flint. “The Geopolitics of China’s Maritime Silk Road Initiative.” Geopolitics 22, no. 2 (2017): 223–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. “Cambodia to Focus on Infrastructure Development at Forthcoming B&R Forum: PM.” Xinhua, April 4, 2016.
  4. “Cambodia–China Relationship a ‘Role Model’ in Modern International Relations: Cambodian Ruling Party Lawmaker.” Xinhua, January 10, 2018.
  5. “Cambodian PM Calls China’s Anti-Secession Law Highly Necessary.” People’s Daily Online, March 17, 2015.
  6. Cambodia Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone. “Brief Introduction.”
  7. Chan, Sok. “Cambodia a Key Country in Belt and Road Initiative.” Khmer Times, October 31, 2017.
  8. Chan, Sok. “China Partnership to Strengthen Rice Sector.” Khmer Times, November 14, 2017.
  9. Chheang, Vannarith. “Cambodia Embraces China’s Belt and Road Initiative.” ISEAS Perspective, no. 48, July 6, 2017.
  10. Chheang, Vannarith. “China and Investments It Has Made in Cambodia.” Khmer Times, July 28, 2017.
  11. Chheang, Vannarith. “China’s Economic Statecraft in Southeast Asia.” ISEAS Perspective, no. 45, August 15, 2018.
  12. “China Believes Cambodia’s Election Will Be Fair, Confirms Support.” Reuters, January 4, 2018.
  13. “China Funded 70% of Cambodian Roads, Bridges: Minister.” The Cambodia Daily, July, 24 2017.
  14. “China Pledges Support for Cambodia Election After EU, U.S. Withdraw.” Reuters, December 28, 2017.
  15. “China Supports Cambodia’s Crackdown on Political Opposition.” Reuters, November 21, 2017.
  16. “Chinese Influx Brings Trash, High Prices to Cambodia’s Sihanoukville.” Radio Free Asia, October 11, 2018.
  17. “Chinese Investors, Tourists Contribute to Cambodia’s Socio-economic Development: Business Leaders.” China Daily, January 12, 2018.
  18. Chung, Lawrence. “By Banning Taiwan’s Flag, Cambodia Adds to Taipei’s Woes with Beijing.” South China Morning Post, February 7, 2017.
  19. Faulder, Dominic, and Kenji Kawase. “Cambodians Wary as Chinese Investment Transforms Their Country.” Nikkei Asian Review, July 18, 2018.
  20. Fullerton, Jamie. “Cambodian Unease as Chinese Casinos Turn Seaside Paradise into ‘Macau No. 2’.” The Telegraph, August 11, 2018.
  21. Heng, Pheakdey. “Cambodia–China Relations: A Positive-Sum Game?” Journal of Current Southeast Asian Affairs 31, no. 2 (2012): 57–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Heng, Pheakdey. “Cambodia’s Path Toward Sustaining Long-Term Growth.” East Asia Forum, February 1, 2018.
  23. Henry, Caleb. “Cambodia to Buy Chinese Satellite as Relations Tighten on Belt and Road Initiative.” Spacenews, January 12, 2018.
  24. Hun, Sen. “Remarks at the 60th Anniversary of Cambodia–China Diplomatic Relations Establishment.” January 2, 2018. Phnom Penh: Council of Ministers of Cambodia.Google Scholar
  25. Hun, Sen. “Remark at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.” May 15, 2015.Google Scholar
  26. Hun, Sen. “Moving Up the Value Chain of Industrialization, Growth and Digital Development.” Speech at 2017 Cambodia Outlook Conference in Phnom Penh, March 2, 2017.Google Scholar
  27. Hurley, John, Scott Morris, and Gailyn Portelance. “Examining the Debt Implications of the Belt and Road Initiative from a Policy Perspective.” Center for Global Development Policy Paper 121, March 2018.
  28. Ismail, Maizura. “The Making of New Chinese Colonies.” The ASEAN Post, August 28, 2018.
  29. Kimsay, Hor, and Brendan O’Byrne. “Chinese Embassy Admits to Issues in Sihanoukville While Lauding Overall Impact of Investment.” The Phnom Penh Post, February 8, 2018.
  30. Kimsay, Hor, and Brendan O’Byrne. “Government Plans One of World’s Biggest Airports in Kandal.” The Phnom Penh Post, January 15, 2018.
  31. Kunmakara, May. “PM Backs China’s Key Role.” Khmer Times, April 12, 2017.—s-key-role.
  32. Lei, Zou. The Political Economy of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Singapore: World Scientific, 2018.Google Scholar
  33. Li, Keqiang. “Building Bridges of Friendship and Cooperation in the Lancang-Mekong Region and Between China and Cambodia.” The Khmer Times, January 9, 2018.
  34. Mao, Pengfei, and Nguon Sovan. “China Key Partner for Cambodia in Infrastructure Development: Cambodian Officials.” Khmer Times, January 9, 2018.
  35. Meng, Siv. “Expressway Project Ready to Move.” Phnom Penh Post, January 19, 2018.
  36. Mogato, Manuel, Michael Martina, and Ben Blanchard. “ASEAN Deadlocked on South China, Cambodia Blocks Statement.” Reuters, July 25, 2016.
  37. Petersen, Hannah Ellis. “How Chinese Money Is Changing Sihanoukville—‘No Cambodia Left’.” South China Morning Post, August 7, 2018.
  38. People’s Republic of China (PRC), Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “Xi Jinping Meets with Prime Minister Hun Sen of Cambodia.” November 7, 2014.
  39. Prasso, Sheridan. “Chinese Influx Stirs Resentment in Once-Sleepy Cambodian Resort.” Bloomberg, June 21, 2018.
  40. “Rising Debt to China ‘Worrying’, Analyst Says.” Voice of America (VOA), December 7, 2017.
  41. Seangly, Phak, and Daphne Chen. “Sesan Dam Goes Online, While PM Dismisses Environmental Concerns.” The Phnom Penh Post, September 26, 2017.
  42. Sovuthy, Khy. “China to Extend Defence Cooperation.” Khmer Times, June 18, 2018.
  43. Suos, Yara, and Kem Reat Vise Th Kem. Belt and Road Initiative and Cambodia’s Development: An Integrated Approach for Optimal Cooperation and Growth. Phnom Penh: Civil Society Alliance Forum, 2018.Google Scholar
  44. Thul, Prak Chan. “U.S. Navy Aid Unit Told to Leave Cambodia.” Reuters, April 4, 2017.
  45. “US Decries Cambodia’s Uighur Move.” BBC, December 20, 2009.
  46. Var, Veasna, and Sovinda Po. “Cambodia, Sri Lanka and the China Debt Trap.” East Asia Forum, March 18, 2017.
  47. “Who Wants Cambodia to Be a Province of China.” Radio Free Asia, March 7, 2018.
  48. World Bank. “International Logistics Performance Index-Country Score Card: Cambodia.”
  49. World Bank Online Database. “Cambodia.”
  50. Zhou, Daguan. A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People. Chiang Mai: Silkworm Books, 2007.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Pheakdey Heng
    • 1
  • Vannarith Chheang
    • 2
  1. 1.Enrich InstitutePhnom PenhCambodia
  2. 2.Asian Vision InstitutePhnom PenhCambodia

Personalised recommendations