With a strong economy and newly acquired confidence following three decades of rapid economic expansion, China has pursued an outward looking policy based upon foreign direct investment, development assistance and trade targeting particularly the developing world. Such expansion has drawn concerns over its impact on human rights, democratization and the environment. This paper assesses these concerns by examining Sino-Cambodia relations over the past sixteen years. It concludes that while trade, development assistance, and investment have had positive effects on Cambodia’s economic development, concerns that these engagements have derailed deeper democratization in Cambodia are not deterministic. Cambodia’s authoritarian trajectory is less a product of China’s engagement and more of the Cambodian elites’ defiance of Western efforts at democratic promotion and belief in state developmentalism—economic prosperity with tight political control.

Author Bio(s)

Kheang Un is Assistant Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies and Assistant Professor of Political Science, Northern Illinois University. He also serves as research advisor to the Cambodia Development Resource Institute and a Board Member of Build Cambodia, a US based non-profit organization. He is an affiliate with the Center for Advanced Studies, Cambodia where he serves as In-Country Coordinator for Tracking Development, a multi-disciplinary and multi-country project at Leiden University, examining the trajectory of development in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. He has previously consulted for the World Bank, the Department for International Development of the United Kingdom, AusAid and non-governmental organizations in Cambodia. Dr. Un has published a number of scholarly journal articles and book chapters on contemporary Cambodian politics and political economy. Email: kun1@niu.edu


assistance, Cambodia, democratization, foreign investment, Khmer Rouge regime, People’s Republic of China (PRC), Sino-Cambodian relations

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