Underlying Factors of Cambodia’s Bandwagoningwith China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Abstract

This article examines Cambodia’s backing of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Having explored bilateral historical ties, the author concludes that Cambodia has

pursued a bandwagoning policy with China for most of its post-colonial period since

1953. At present, Cambodia’s bandwagoning policy with China has been manifested in

the former’s support of the latter’s initiative. It begs a question as to why the kingdom

has enthusiastically supported it. The article elucidates the motives behind Cambodia’s

bandwagoning policy on BRI applying John Spanier’s three level of analytical frame-

work. First, on the systemic level, it argues that China’s bid to expand its influence, the

change of balance of power in Southeast Asia, and the clean competition for influence

between China and Japan in the Mekong Region have affected Cambodia’spolicy

decision on the BRI. Second, at the nation-state level of analysis, Cambodia perceives

BRI as another funding source of infrastructure projects, and a means to achieve its

policy goal of becoming an economic hub in the region and to whip up domestic

support of the ruling party. Finally, on the decision-making level, the backing of the

BRI may stem from Prime Minister Hun Sen’s pragmatic views of how to sustain his

rule over the country. He might have viewed that economic growth would help to

strengthen his ruling. The analysis concludes by identifying some negative repercus-

sions Cambodia has encountered as a result of her support of the BRI.

Keywords Belt and road initiative Indo-Pacific strategy Cambodia John Spanier Bandwagoning