by Ju Mengjun, Wang Qibing
PHNOM PENH, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen said that Cambodia-China friendly relations of cooperation had grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade and predicted that the ties would become stronger and deeper under new Chinese leadership.
He made the remarks during a recent interview with Xinhua on the eve of his official visit to China, where he would also attend Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference.
He said he used the word "solid" because the ties are in a very good shape, and "in leaps and bounds" because they are growing rapidly.
He said the two countries have moved from the relationship of good neighbors, good friends, good partners to the level of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation.
"In the last decade, the ties have grown very quickly in politics and in all fields including trade," Hun Sen said, recalling that in 2012, during the visit of former President Hu Jintao to Cambodia, the two nations agreed to boost the bilateral trade volume to 5 billion U.S. dollars by 2017.
"This is not a high ambition, but we have possibility to achieve it because China has offered tax exemptions of up to 95 percent for Cambodia-made products," he said.
"We can say that this is a new aspect that had been built during the last 10 years."
The two nations are in the new stage of further strengthening and promoting this relationship to a deeper and stronger level.
The premier said that he is scheduled to make an official visit to China from April 6-10 for talks with new Chinese leaders, particularly with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.
"Under the new term of Chinese leadership, I hope that the Sino- Cambodian relations will be more solid," he said. "My forthcoming visit to the People's Republic of China will clearly show the continuation of promoting the bilateral relation to a deeper level. "
Both sides are expected to draw up an action plan to implement the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership of Cooperation.
"At this point, we expect that China, under the leadership of Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang, will definitely continue to further promote this relation to be better and deeper as Chinese economy has grown well and Cambodian economy has also been enhanced, so this relation, I do believe that it will be further heightened in the term of the two leaders," he said.
He noted that this year marks the 55th anniversary of the Cambodia-China diplomatic relations, and both sides have been sponsoring activities to promote their bilateral ties.
The prime minister spoke highly of China's assistance to Cambodia, especially in water, roads, electricity, and human resources, the four sectors Cambodia has given high priority since 1987.
"In these years, Chinese friends have helped us in the four sectors. This is the aspiration that I want and China has fulfilled my aspiration through grant aid and loans for developing these sectors," he said.
China helped finance the establishment of electricity transmission grids, and the Chinese companies have constructed hydropower plants, with three dams already put into operation, and three others under construction.
In human resources development, China has helped to establish schools such as Preah Leap Agriculture School and provide scholarships to Cambodian students to study in China.
"In the future, I want China to continue supporting these four sectors with financing and investment," he said.
The premier added that the country also seeks Chinese investment in other fields such as mineral resource exploration and exploitation on kerosene, gas and minerals to further promote good economic cooperation. Cambodia also needs more Chinese investment in manufacturing industries and tourism.
Last year, more than 300,000 Chinese tourists visited Cambodia. With direct flights to Cambodia from Beijing, Shanghai and other Chinese cities, Chinese tourists to Cambodia are expected to reach 1 million in coming years, he said.
On Chinese President Xi Jinping's first overseas visit, Hun Sen expressed satisfaction with Chinese new leadership's diplomacy. He noted that besides seeking Russia's partnership, China is reaching out to African countries.
"I think that this is a policy that protects the voice of the weak. China always voices support for the role of developing countries," he said.