Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with Cambodian King Norodom Sihamoni in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia, Oct. 13, 2016. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
by Hou Lijun, Xue Lei
PHNOM PENH, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's two-day state visit to Cambodia, which concluded Friday, has added weight to the two countries' deep-rooted traditional friendship and bilateral cooperation within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.
The signing of 31 cooperation documents Thursday will certainly inject more vitality into the close bond between China and Cambodia.
CEMENTING TIME-HONORED FRIENDSHIP
From Phnom Penh International Airport to Cambodian Royal Palace, Xi was given a red carpet treatment by the Cambodian royal family.
Chinese flags, banners and large displays of both countries' landmarks could be seen at the capital's main street, creating a strong atmosphere of warm welcome.
By visiting Queen Mother Norodom Monineath Sihanouk and laying a wreath at the statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk, Xi showed his personal feeling towards the Cambodian royal family.
"Hardship reveals true friendship," the president quoted an old Chinese saying in a signed article to describe the relationship with Cambodia.
Cementing the traditional friendship is obviously the main theme that has run through Xi's meeting with the royal family and Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen.
"China values its special friendship with the Cambodian royal family and attaches great importance to the development of its relations with Cambodia," Xi told King Norodom Sihamoni.
While meeting Queen Mother Monineath, he said the China-Cambodia friendship was deeply rooted in the hearts of both peoples.
In talks between Xi and Hun Sen, the two leaders agreed that the two countries should continue to be "highly trusted friends, loyal partners and a community of shared destiny in weal and woe."
The traditional China-Cambodia friendship, tested by the times and a changing international landscape, has grown strong like a luxuriant tree thanks to efforts made by successive leaders of both countries.
"Cambodia and China are iron brothers. They enjoy unshakable friendly relations based on mutual respect and common perceptions on many regional and international issues," said Joseph Matthews, director of ASEAN Education Center in Phnom Penh.
"Entering the new era, the China-Cambodia friendship will continue to flourish, beaming with new vitality," Xi said in his article, voicing hope for the bright future of this special friendship.
UNLOCKING COOPERATION POTENTIAL
Cambodia was an important link on the ancient Maritime Silk Road. Strategic linkage of China's Belt and Road Initiative and Cambodia's Rectangular Strategy provides new development opportunities for both sides.
On Thursday, Xi and Hun Sen witnessed the signing of 31 cooperation documents, including a Memorandum of Understanding on formulating outlines for jointly advancing the construction of the Belt and Road.
The two sides also signed agreements on economic and technological cooperation as well as advancing major projects on production capacity cooperation and investment cooperation.
Eang Sophalleth, a spokesman for the prime minister, told reporters that relations between Cambodia and China had been growing ever stronger.
"This is a historic visit, and the two parties discussed boosting cooperation as the closest friends and comprehensive strategic partners," he said.
In a joint declaration released late Thursday, the two sides agreed to enhance alignment of the Belt and Road Initiative with Cambodia's Rectangular Strategy, as well as China's 13th Five Year Plan with the 2015-2025 Plan for Industrial Development of Cambodia.
In a joint written interview with Chinese media, Hun Sen said he fully supports China's Belt and Road Initiative, which will witness the vast building of infrastructure and deepened trade and financial integration in Asia, Africa and Europe.
He said China's Silk Road Fund and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank could also benefit Cambodia's economic and social development.
Pou Sothirak, executive director of the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, said Cambodia is looking forward to reaping enormous benefits from China's Belt and Road Initiative.
China has been Cambodia's largest trading partner and source of investment for three years. The year 2015 saw two-way trade topping 4.4 billion U.S. dollars.
During the visit, the two sides vowed to expand two-way trade and set a bilateral trade target of 5 billion dollars by 2017.
China will encourage its competitive and reputable big companies to cooperate with Cambodia in the sectors of infrastructure, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, industry and tourism, the declaration said.
The booming Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone stands as a testimony to how fruitful China-Cambodia cooperation can be. By June 2016, 100 companies were operating in the zone with a total investment of 280 million dollars, creating over 13,000 jobs.
A manager from Zhejiang China Commodities City Group Co., Ltd said that via the Belt and Road Initiative, the group would lead more and more small- and medium-sized enterprises in exploring the market in Cambodia, which will offer more quality goods for Cambodian customers and increase employment in Cambodia.
ENHANCING COLLABORATION AND EXCHANGES
During Xi's visit, the two sides agreed to strengthen strategic communication and make positive contributions to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and the world.
In international and regional affairs, China and Cambodia have reached extensive and high-level political consensus, said Chinese Ambassador to Cambodia Xiong Bo, adding that this has been particularly prominent in the recent South China Sea issue.
In the joint declaration, the two sides voiced their belief that the South China Sea issue is not a problem between China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and should be resolved peacefully through friendly consultations and negotiations by directly concerned sovereign states.
The two countries also agreed to further consolidate coordination under multilateral frameworks including the United Nations, Asia-Europe Meeting, East Asia Cooperation and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, and maintain close and effective communication on issues concerning each other's major interest, rendering firm mutual support, said the document.
"The purpose of such collaboration is to uphold the common interests of our two countries and other developing countries and build an Asian community with a shared future," Xi said in his article.
During the visit, the two sides also agreed to enhance people-to-people exchanges by continuously deepening cooperation in education, culture, tourism and health.
Cambodia is the first stop of Xi's visit. The trip will also take him to Bangladesh and the western Indian state of Goa, where he will attend a summit of the emerging-market bloc of BRICS, which groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.