We are entering into a new world order, generally characterised by a multipolar world in which multiple state actors work together to build a more inclusive and open multilateral system.
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As we know globalisation is under siege. Unilateralism and protectionism are threatening the multilateral system. Therefore, we need to stand united and double down our efforts to maintain and enhance an open, inclusive and rules-based international order.
The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is the catalyst of global peace and prosperity. BRI is the foundation of an open and inclusive multilateral system that benefits all of us. Therefore, we need to promote practical cooperation and people-centred development to ensure that the people living along the BRI will fairly benefit from the fruits of development.
Cambodia’s foreign policy stresses the principles of mutual consultation, mutual respect, mutual interest, and mutual non-interference. These principles are in line with the spirit of the BRI. We need to strengthen these norms and principles in order to sustain peace, stability and prosperity in our region.
The 21st century is the century of Asia. Our region has enjoyed remarkable economic performance over the past two decades. However, we need to continuously reform our governance in order to maintain our economic dynamism. More importantly, we need to further promote regional integration, cross-border trade and investment liberalisation and facilitation, and regional connectivity.
Our economic success is strongly connected to the level of our openness and the effectiveness of our domestic reforms. Cambodia for instance will continue to reform its governance to ensure that no one is left behind.
Social protection and inclusion measures have been introduced and implemented across the country. Currently, the Cambodian government is investing in digital economy, an inclusive digital economy, in order to leapfrog our economic development ladder. Cambodia will be the first country in Southeast Asia to introduce 5G technology.
Technological innovation is the key to future economy. Countries that fast adapt and adopt to the fourth industrial revolution will have higher chances of success and resilience. China is now the leading country in technological innovation. Hence, China can do more to assist developing countries in Asia and other regions to build digital infrastructure and human resources on digital economy. I believe that China can do more in this field and all of us will benefit from the good will, and efforts of China.
Now our Asian region is facing unprecedented security risks deriving from geopolitical power competition. The US has taken all measures to prevent China from rising and challenging its global power status. I think it is the legitimate right of any country to develop and rise. No country should be given the authority to dictate the right to development of another country. Therefore, China has the right to develop and advance as other sovereign and independent nation state. Cambodia shares the view that China’s rise is peaceful and beneficial to the development of Asia and other parts of the world, especially developing countries.
China-Southeast Asia and South Asia relations are critical to sustain the economic dynamism of Asia and to protect open, inclusive and rules-based multilateral system in this region. I must say that Asean has become the cornerstone of multilateral system in Southeast Asia and Asia Pacific. That is because Asean adheres to the principles of openness and inclusiveness. Asean welcomes all friends that share similar values and principles.
Moving forward, I would suggest that we concentrate on practical cooperation and people-centred development. Our goal is to realise a people-centred community of shared future. We are responsible for the future of our people. Development should not be measured by number in terms of gross domestic product growth rate but also the quality of life of the people and with the consideration of the ecosystem and biodiversity that sustain our life.
Professor Sum Chhum Bun is Vice President of the Royal Academy of Cambodia. This commentary is based on a keynote address delivered at the 2019 South and Southeast Asian Countries Commodity Exhibition and Investment & Trade Fair, and the 7th China-South and Southeast Asian Think Tank Forum in Kunming, June 13-16, 2019