PHNOM PENH, May 9 (Xinhua) -- Suos Yara, a member of parliament from the ruling Cambodian People's Party said that the rising China has benefited Cambodia and the whole world.
In an opinion published on the Phnom Penh Post newspaper on Wednesday, the MP said China is "not a threat to Cambodia and the region," and Cambodia has the advantage in seizing the opportunities due to geographical proximity to the gravity of economic center of the world."
He said the concerns over increasing economic presence and influence of China in Cambodia are legitimate however, and one needs to understand that every country wants to build a close relationship with China, particularly with regard to economic interest.
"For instance, the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China in 2013 is a new catalyst of global growth," he said in the article. "The Belt and Road Initiative is an intercontinental economic venue for more than 60 countries to cooperate and connect."
In a response to concerns raised by Sam Rainsy, self-exiled former leader of the now-dissolved opposition Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP), over debt Cambodia owned China, Yara said that people shouldn't be too much worried about the fact that 60 percent of Cambodia's debt is owed to China.
"This is due to the economic size of China," Yara said, adding that it will strengthen complex interdependence between the two countries.
"China has more stakes in Cambodia. Both countries and people will benefit from a bilateral partnership. Historically, China does not pose any threat to Cambodia," he added.
Yara said that there was little evidence proving that Chinese investments adversely affect Cambodia's ecological balance, and concerning the hydroelectric power plants, the benefits outweighed the costs.
"Cambodia needs cheap electric power supply to accelerate economic growth. The cost of electricity has continually dropped to less than 0.20 U.S. dollar per kilowatt hour," he said.
"Energy security is critical for the development of Cambodia. China is the main producer of solar panels. Future cooperation on solar energy will help diversify the sources of energy of Cambodia."
He said Chinese investments in Cambodia concentrated on labor-intensive industries, particularly the garment sector, which provides about 1 million jobs to Cambodian workers. The current minimum wage is 170 U.S. dollars per month. If a worker wishes to work overtime then he or she can earn nearly 300 U.S. dollars per month.
He said China has started investing more in semi-skilled and skilled manufacturing sector. Technology and knowledge transfer is taking place although at a slow speed.
"China has a great source of knowledge to transfer to Cambodia as China is pursuing an innovation-led development model," the MP said.
He added that Chinese aid has significantly contributed to the improvement of the living standard of the local people. For instance, early this year China pledged to provide 100 Cambodian children who have congenital heart disease with free surgery in three years in a program called China-Cambodia Love Heart Journey, and every year, China provides about 200 scholarships to Cambodian students to pursue their higher education in Cambodia.
"Cambodians should not be afraid of the rising economic presence and influence of China. They need to adapt and explore ways to grasp the opportunities stemming from China's economic powerhouse. Of course to optimise the benefits from China either through development assistance or trade and investment, Cambodia needs to strengthen its governance and capacity," he said.
He added that both the public and private sectors in Cambodia need to enhance their capacity to better grasp the opportunities generated by China, particularly under the new initiatives such as the Belt and Road Initiative and Lancang-Mekong Cooperation.