A recent post by The Economist turned the spotlight on Cambodia. The focus was not on the sublime beauty of its historical sites nor was it on its notorious child-sex industry. The attention was on how fast Cambodia is industrializing and building up its infrastructure. According to the post, Phnom Penh is in the process of building a new container terminal, and plans to build two new ports. Mekong is described to be a potential “commercial highway.”
Two major players, or rather rivals, are said to be fighting for a larger slice of the pie in Cambodia: China and Vietnam. Half of Cambodia’s foreign investment comes from China.
However, Cambodia is not just a silent recipient of foreign investment from other Asian and Southeast Asian nations, in my opinion. Cambodia has liberalized trade with its neighbors. More importantly, it appears that its government officials and agencies are making commendable efforts in advancing foreign business interests in its country.
A travel brochure from a Malaysian travel agency features a 4-day business trip to Cambodia. The itinerary is filled with business meetings with Cambodian officials, representatives from the Cambodian Chamber of Commerce, as well as a tour of the Olympic and Orussey markets. This is an example of what Cambodia is doing in Malaysia: business tourism. Cambodia might very well be promoting business tourism in many other parts of the world. As Asian and Western nations try to tap into the nascent Cambodian market, the Khmer reaches out and courts other nations as well.
It is fascinating to see Cambodia modernize and to take advantage of business opportunities that are presented to them, and that they have created for themselves. Perhaps they might modernize the same way as China, perhaps not. It would be interesting to see how this turns out.