The leaders of China and Zambia have announced an upgrading of their relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, as the world’s second-largest economy forges deeper ties with the Global South.
The development followed Chinese President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Manet earlier in the day.
It also came two days after China and Venezuela elevated their ties to an “all-weather” partnership during a state visit by President Nicolas Maduro.
The trio of visiting leaders from Africa, south-east Asia and Latin America speak to China’s growing role in those parts of the world.
State banks have financed roads and other infrastructure projects and Chinese companies have built factories, mines, hotels and casinos.
China has in turn won access to natural resources and diplomatic support from many Global South countries on contentious votes at the UN and from Cambodia in China’s territorial disputes with other south-east Asian nations in the South China Sea.
Mr Xi told Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema that the collective rise of developing countries has become “an irreversible trend of the times”, state broadcaster CCTV said.
China’s outreach to the Global South has taken on greater geopolitical import as China seeks allies to push back against growing pressure from the United States and its partners on multiple fronts.
“We appreciate your role in positively altering the global order so that the Global South can take our rightful place in the league of nations,” Mr Hichilema told Mr Xi.
The “all-weather” partnership with Venezuela is an even closer relationship that China has granted to only a handful countries.
It signals they will maintain close relations no matter what changes occur in the international situation.
Development loans from China and others have saddled some countries, including Zambia, with unsustainable debt levels, sparking debt crises that threaten to stymie economic development.
More than 40% of Cambodia’s 10 billion dollars (£8 billion) in foreign debt is owed to Chinese institutions.
Hun Manet made China his first official foreign visit after succeeding his father, Hun Sen, who ruled Cambodia for 40 years and cultivated his country’s close relationship with China.
Mr Xi told Hun Manet that his father had made historic contributions to bilateral ties. Hun Manet said he would further develop the friendship between their countries.
The US had shown disapproval of Hun Sen’s undemocratic moves and is uneasy over the expansion of a Cambodian naval facility with Chinese assistance. Hun Sen consistently denied that Cambodia had granted China the right to set up its own military base at Ream Naval Base.
After his meetings in Beijing, Hun Manet plans to join other south-east Asian leaders this weekend in southern China at the 20th Asean-China Expo, which promotes cooperation in trade, investment and tourism.
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