Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen refuted accusations that China's increasing investment in the country is "colonizing" it when he addressed the groundbreaking ceremony of a $2 billion Chinese-funded expressway on Friday.
The first expressway in Cambodia, which will cut the travel time between the capital Phnom Penh with the deep-sea port province of Preah Sihanouk from five hours to two and half, will not put the country in danger of being colonized, said Hun, who regularly praises China's no-strings-attached aid, compared with help from the US and Europe, according to AFP.
"We believe that it will be an important strategic road that will contribute to boosting Cambodia's economic growth," Hun said.
The accusation that China is colonizing Cambodia is absurd. Colonizing means looting resources, but China is investing in projects that will benefit local development, Gu Jiayun, an expert with Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times on Sunday.
"Infrastructure projects require more investment, consume long times and offer lower returns and receive less attention than they deserve," Gu said. "This is the reason why the US and European countries are not interested."
"The expressway project was overseen by the Cambodian government," Gu added. "The need to build the expressway came as early as 2006. China joined later with a build-operate-transfer model because the $2 billion cost exceeded Cambodia's debt plan, and no other country wanted to provide aid."
"In terms of funding for infrastructure, we welcome any country that's willing," said Sun Chanthol, Cambodia's minister for public works and transport. "But so far, only the Chinese are responding so generously," the New York Times reported last week.
Hun said that the "tremendous project," which will be built by the China Road and Bridge Corp, will increase logistics efficiency in the country and reduce the cost and time of moving goods, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Hun said China's progress has not only given direct benefits to the Chinese people but also provided advantages to other developing countries, especially those along the routes of the Belt and Road Initiative, the report said.
"Some 90 percent of Cambodia's exports move through Preah Sihanouk, which puts huge transport pressure on the current road system, and the safety is not satisfactory," said Gu, who has driven several times on the current road.
"The current two-lane road is too narrow for such heavy cargo trucks, and it doesn't feel safe to drive on a road that has ditches on both sides," Gu said.
"China has already built seven bridges in Cambodia and they have proven beneficial to local economic development. So will the expressway," Gu added.