Business analyst Shaun Rein author of The War for China’s Wallet: Profiting from the New World Order defines three different relations China can have with other countries: hot, warm or cold partners. From Cambodia he reports how a hot partner like Cambodia can deal with its powerful neighbor, according to the Phnom Penh Post.
The Phnom Penh Post:
I don’t think China is trying to forge alliances; instead, it is looking to use economic carrots and sticks to convince countries to either do its political bidding (a Hot Partner country like Hungary, Ethiopia or Cambodia) or to punish countries that cross it politically (a Cold Partner country like India or the Philippines and the Aquino administration). It knows it can never be truly close with any country in the long-term, so instead it tries to dole out
low-interest loans and infrastructure investments to countries to make them open to China’s political aims in the short term. Meanwhile, countries that cross China politically, as South Korea did by installing Thaad missiles, get punished. China blocked Chinese tour groups from visiting South Korea last April, causing a 40 percent drop in annual tourist visits and crippling the South Korean economy.
If Cambodia is a ‘hot partner’ with China, what does this mean for Cambodia’s economy and development? And what does China gain from the relationship?
Cambodia’s [Prime Minister] Hun Sen has been quite savvy in his dealings with China over the past decade. He has supported China’s views on the South China Sea during summits of Asean. Having a supportive country in Asean like Cambodia is to counter criticism of China’s policies by countries like Vietnam or the Philippines, and causes China to look to invest more in infrastructure development in Cambodia and to give it low-interest loans.
Moreover, the Chinese government uses its control of the state-owned media to tout the historical landmarks in Cambodia like Angkor Wat. Right now, Cambodia is one of the top destinations Chinese tourists want to visit. I am very bullish on Cambodia’s ability to attract Chinese tourists to its landmarks and high rollers to its casinos. This is all gained by being a friend of China in the “hot partner” category.
One of the problems of becoming a “hot partner” country is that these countries often become too dependent on China economically and start to lose political independence. China’s economy is so large that if a country gets punished for crossing China politically, then it will have a real impact, as in the South Korean case.
On the one hand, it is good to get close to China politically, as nations will reap economic benefits, but it comes at a cost of losing political independence so countries should try to be close to China but also distance itself at times, as the United Kingdom or France has done, so that they are not viewed as lackeys of the Chinese government.
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