Everbody thought China was going to start wars and attack people to get land? Nope! Them commies are just buying everything they can!
They have taken over a big chunk of Cambodia, just by buying there way in! No war needed!
When several Chinese men dragged two Cambodian massage parlour workers out of a bar and forced them into a taxi, Som Neang says he couldn’t stand by and let them be kidnapped.
“Help me! The Chinese are taking me away! I don’t want to go!” one of the women was screaming.
Neang and other Cambodian motorcycle taxi drivers nearby demanded the women be released.
“The Chinese became angry and started attacking us,” Neang says. They were soon joined by others.
“There were more than 100 of them in the end, some with metal bars,” he says. “Many Cambodians joined in the fight, but some of us were beaten badly … when police arrived they fired shots into the air but the Chinese were not scared and kept fighting.”
Sihanoukville, once a sleepy coastal hamlet popular with backpackers, has been progressively populated by Chinese workers, developers, casinos and investors. It’s being touted by developers as the first port of call on Beijing’s $US1-trillion Belt and Road Initiative and some are saying that this little tourist town, carved out of jungle in the 1960s, will be the next Macau.
The city houses a deep-water port and a joint-country special economic zone which accommodates 121 mostly Chinese companies producing textiles, garments, machinery and electronics.
The 11-square-kilometre economic zone is being upgraded to accommodate 300 companies providing jobs for up to 100,000 workers, and a four-lane highway is proposed to link Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, 220 kilometres to the north.
Connecting Sihanoukville to the BRI’s vast global network of rail, roads, ports, pipelines, fibre-optic cable and diplomacy is part of a radical change sweeping Cambodia.
Money from Chinese businesses and individuals is flooding into Cambodia in the form of expressways, airports, skyscrapers, dams, bridges, hotels, casinos, restaurants and apartment blocks.
Land prices in both Sihanoukville and Phnom Penh have skyrocketed.
Chinese companies, some government controlled, are investing billions of dollars in the garment, footwear and energy industries as well as communications, banking, finance and agriculture.
Meanwhile, some of Cambodia’s islands and national parks, which jut into the turquoise waters of the Gulf of Thailand, are being carved up by Chinese property developers amid secret deals and swirling allegations of corruption.
Chinese money accounted for about 30 per cent of Cambodia’s total foreign investment in 2017.
The investment has brought rapid social, financial, diplomatic, strategic and demographic changes, and China’s ruling Communist Party and the entrenched regime of Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, both back the breakneck property free-for-all.
In January, representatives of the Sichuan Huashi Group, one of China’s top 50 companies, signed an agreement at a gathering called the China-Cambodia Belt and Road Entrepreneur Cooperation Summit to build a huge commercial housing project in Phnom Penh.
Hun Sen and Chinese leaders announced $US7 billion in new investments in the past several months, including in forestry, a new airport for Phnom Penh, a hospital and a communications satellite.
The Chinese-built Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville expressway is expected to cost more than $US2 billion.
This south-east Asian nation of just 16 million people has effectively become pivotal to Beijing’s regional political and strategic ambitions at a time of heightened concern about the potential for conflict over Beijing’s claim to almost all the strategic waterways of the South China Sea.
Bentleys and $100 lobsters
But not everybody is happy about this influx of money and people.
In Sihanoukville, where backpackers came for years to party on some of Asia’s most pristine beaches, many Cambodians see the arrival of tens of thousands of mainland Chinese as a takeover.
English and Cambodian-language signs are being replaced by signs written in Mandarin. Some Cambodian coastal and island locations have been given new Chinese names. Supermarkets are packed with Chinese goods. Chinese people are gambling around the clock at more than 50 mostly Chinese-owned and run casinos and many more illegal online gambling dens.
Along once potholed roads, people from mainland China drive Bentleys, Porsches and Ferraris.
In the first nine months of 2017, flights connected to eight mainland Chinese provinces brought 87,900 arrivals, a staggering 170 per cent increase on the previous year. Chinese guides steer visitors to Chinese-run hotels, restaurants, casinos and karaoke bars.
The construction boom is fuelled by workers who are mostly Chinese, even though the minimum wage for local workers is a low $US140 ($184) per month.
Cambodia’s social media is awash with expressions of scorn for the fact that Chinese people are paying double or triple the going rate to buy or rent premises for businesses or accommodation, forcing Cambodians and non-Chinese expatriates out of the market.
The demand for land has pushed Sihanoukville beachfront prices higher than those in Australia’s Byron Bay. In one Chinese restaurant on the beachfront adjacent to four casinos, a plate of steamed lobster costs $US80 ($107), compared to less than $US5 ($6.70) for the same amount at nearby Cambodian eateries.
Non-Chinese expatriates say they are made to feel unwelcome in the casinos where some Chinese lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in a day, according to a Sihanoukville-based Cambodian businessman who worked in casinos for 20 years.
A Cambodian man recently won $US130,000 ($175,000) in a casino, but when he went to collect, the Chinese operator refused payment, pointing out it is illegal for Cambodians to gamble. The man returned with a group of friends and trashed gambling tables before police arrived.
Above Sihanoukville’s beaches, off-the-plan apartment developments are shooting up, apparently in defiance of planning regulations, and towering over cheap hostels and burger vans. They are marketed virtually exclusively to mainland Chinese investors.
“The beach will be for tenants only,” insists Cheng Sourkea, a saleswoman for Blue Bay, a 1450-apartment tower and casino complex that is still under construction on the city’s famed Independence Beach.
Prices start at $US320,000 ($430,000) for a small two-bedroom unit.
Foreigners are not allowed to own land in Cambodia but Chinese business people pay up to $US100,000 ($135,000) to (legally) buy citizenship.
Environmental groups say the unbridled construction will severely impact the environment and rights advocates worry it will stoke cultural clashes.