Organized Panel Session
Since 2012, Cambodia under the ruling Cambodian People’s Party has tilted away from its traditional ally Vietnam toward China. Today China’s colossal influence in Cambodia has raised concerns about the loss of Cambodia’s sovereignty and increasingly alarmed the Vietnamese about the potential threat the Sino-Cambodian alliance poses to Vietnam’s security down the road. This panel examines the evolution of Vietnam’s strategies toward Cambodia since 1975, the magnitude of Chinese influence in Cambodia today, and the challenges of Cambodia’s efforts to take advantage of China’s global “Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)” without compromising its sovereignty. The first two papers focus on the historical evolution of Vietnam’s policy toward Cambodia since1975. While Path’s paper delves into the politics of Vietnam’s aid to the People’s Republic of Kampuchea during the Third Indochina War, Vu’s focuses on the broader concept of “near abroad” in Vietnam’s foreign policy toward Cambodia. The other two papers interrogate the effects of asymmetrical Sino-Cambodian relations on Cambodia’s domestic politics, economic structure, and national security discourses. Chen’s paper analyzes the role of Cambodia’s ethnic economy and its linkage with transnational networks, especially Sino-Khmer and Chinese business in China, in perpetuating Cambodia’s political-economic patronage system. Expanding on the theme of Chen’s paper, Deth’s reveals Cambodia’s conflicting discourses on “development” vs. “debt trap” in the context of China’s BRI. Taken together, these four papers expose the changing dynamics and effects of the triangular asymmetrical relations between Cambodia, Vietnam, and China on Cambodia’s domestic and foreign policy from 1975 to present.