In my post of 17 July I suggested that it was no surprise Cambodia acted as China wished in relation to the South China Sea issue at the time of the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting held in Cambodia.

Given Chinese aid, it was always likely that Cambodia would balk at agreeing to a joint communique that, in effect, was critical of China. While critics of Cambodia's actions referred to it as China's 'puppet' or 'pawn', far too little attention was given to just how large China's aid to Cambodia, particularly relative to other sources.

For many years it has been difficult to quantify the exact size of China's aid, but a new assessment from the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies draws attention both to the size and the relative importance of the aid by comparison with that received from other donors:

China offers Cambodia $2.5 billion in investments and soft loans.

Chinese prime minister Wen Jiabao pledged to give Cambodia $500 million in loans for infrastructure projects following a September 1­2 visit to China by Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen. China also approved a $2 billion industrial park project that would produce 3 million tons of steel per year and employ up to 10,000 Cambodians. Chinese investment in Cambodia totaled $1.9 billion in 2011, more than double the investment by all ASEAN countries combined and 10 times that by the United States. Cambodian officials rejected speculation that the aid was a Chinese thank-you for Cambodia's support for China on the South China Sea, parts of which are disputed between China and four of Cambodia's Southeast Asian neighbors.

Photo by Flickr user judithbluepool.