Chinese-Cambodian Tie

Posted by khmernews on August 7, 2008

The first description about Angkor Wat reaching its peak of development has been found in “A Record of Customs of Cambodia”, written by Zhou Daguan, roughly pronounced Joe Da-gwan.

Zhou was originally from Yong Jeav minority in Je Keang (Zi Cheang), a southwestern coastal province of China. Zhou, appointed as Chinese royal diplomat between 1296 and 1297, spent almost a whole year traveling around Cambodia. After returning to his home country, Zhou wrote a personal record which was then published prior to 1312. Not long before the fall of Mongol Dynasty in 1368, Zhou’s personal record was organized into a manuscript consisting of hundreds of chapters, most of which were the complete extracts, and it was published as “Zhou-Fu”. However, his record was published with his ink, known as “Tao Ting Y Ming”.

At the time, Cambodia was known as “Chen La” by Chinese, and the people living in “Chen La” were called “Kampu Ching” or “Kambodja”. Zhou Daguan described, in details and actively, the customs and traditions, life styles, people, languages, and religious doctrines of the country known presently as Cambodia.

Let’s turn to talk about the modern history. There are a lot of questions being asked why the Kingdom of Cambodia and the People’s Republic of China has had such a strong bond since the 1950s and how they could maintain it despite their political situations.

Glanced briefly, Cambodia and China seem to have little in common. China, a state in Eastern Asia, has the most population in the world and been renowned as military and economic power in Asia-Pacific in the recent years. Cambodia, meanwhile, is a small kingdom in South-East Asia, which has gone through chronic wars, foreign invasion, and Khmer Rouge genocide one after another.

The close relationship of Cambodia and China started during a meeting and an extensive talk between Prince Norodom Sihanouk, then head of state of Cambodia, and then People’s Republic of China’s Prime Minister Chou An Lay during the Bandung Conference in Indonesia in 1955.

Prior to the meeting in Bandung, Prince Norodom Sihanouk was informed by his representative to the Geneva Convention in 1954 on Indochina that China’s stand was to respect other countries’ sovereignty. In that convention, PM Chou En Lay intervened to convince North-Vietnam’s delegations to acknowledge Cambodia’s sovereignty and to pull out their troops from Cambodia.

For Cambodia’s Prince Norodom Sihanouk, the priorities and wishes he wanted in his whole life to acquire for his nation were: (1) the complete protection of the independence and sovereignty of Cambodia in any circumstances; (2) peace and stability with national unity and reconciliation; and (3) the mechanism which turned his country gradually away from poverty with the efforts of the people both men and women.

I feel that the leadership of the two countries in the 1950s, the time when the mutual relationship started, had its strength despite their different political perspectives.

Prince Norodom Sihanouk had a strong sentiment of the struggle of Chairman Mao Tse Tong and PM Chou An Lay, who were considered by Cambodian leaders as the models of Chinese people for struggling for independence, national unity and sovereignty of China.

As a young Cambodian leader, the prince thought that the struggle of Chinese people was a good sample, and that Cambodia and he himself could do the same regardless of any circumstances in order to achieve independence and sovereignty for his kingdom.

In 1955, after the meeting in Bandung, Prince Sihanouk moved a step further by acknowledging the People’s Republic of China and ending the diplomatic relationship with Taiwan that Cambodia had built with since it gained independence in 1953.

During Prince Sihanouk’s visit to China in February 1956, Chairman Mao appreciated the prince’s policy on peace and impartiality, stating that the policy strongly influenced the world. Meanwhile, PM Chou En Lay stressed the freedom of all states in the international affairs regardless of their country size.

A joint statement made at the end of the Prince Sihanouk’s visit stated that the two countries agreed that the “five peaceful, positive co-existing principles” were the political line for Cambodian-China relationship. Cambodia became the first non-socialist country to receive aids from China for the development of textile, cement, and paper factories; the construction of roads, bridges, and irrigation systems; and the renovation of health and educational centers of Cambodia.

In a response visit to Cambodia in November 1953, PM Chou An Lay revived the China’s respect for Cambodia’s impartiality and tried to alley Cambodia’s concern that China was trying to control Cambodia indirectly through the influence of its trade, leaders and other factors as there were more than 400,000 Chinese living in Cambodia before 1970. PM Chou requested for “sincerity” with Cambodia.

For China, Cambodia was a perfect model of the foreign policy that the People’s Republic [of China] claimed on the basis of the “five peaceful, positive co-existing principles.” Meanwhile, the support by China’s leaders on the impartial stand of Cambodia in the mid-1950s was the significant commencement originated from the “dictatorial theory” stated by the “Equal Party” (China). Through this theory, Chairman Mao had repeatedly announced that there could not be a “third choice of dream” and believed that the world was divided into only two blocks: the supporters of “building the socialism” and the “puppets” of imperialists. He requested the choice of the communism, which was called the “impartial state” in armed conflict in which China was the example.

On July 19, 1958, the Kingdom of Cambodia acknowledged the People’s Republic of China and Prince Sihanouk started his extensive personal relation with PM Chou An Lay and other later China’s leaders.

It is believed that that Prince Sihanouk decided to acknowledge the People’s Republic of China was a part of his efforts to steer his country away from Vietnam War and conflicts with its neighbours such as Thailand and Vietnam, which did not respect the sovereignty of Cambodia.

In June 1958 the tension between Cambodia and South Vietnam increased due to conflicts along the border and some acts by South Vietnam’s secret agency to help oust Prince Sihanouk, and it was generally believed that that was supported by the Central Intelligence Agency and some units of the US Armed Force.

However, the truth was still the truth that as a young king during the 1940s Prince Sihanouk studied the Chinese history and was absorbed in both ancient and modern Chinese history and the past relationship between Angkor Empire and China, which had invited prominent Chinese historians and the immigrants.  He also appreciated Son Yasen, who was an illustrious Chinese dignitary in the modern history. (To be continued)

Unofficial Translation
-Extracted from Searching for the Truth, pages 41-43, #101, May 2008.


One Response to “Chinese-Cambodian Tie”

  1. Very good article. I’ve found your site via Bing and I’m really glad about the information you provide in your posts. Btw your blogs layout is really messed up on the Kmelon browser. Would be cool if you could fix that. Anyhow keep up the good work!

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