June 9, 2010:
China is developing (or buying) close ties with Cambodia. This month, China will deliver 257 brand new military trucks to Cambodia, along with 50,000 military uniforms. This sort of charity is needed because Cambodia has never really recovered from its disastrous experiment in communist government (the Khmer Rouge) in the 1970s. That killed off 15 percent of the population (including nearly all the ethnic Chinese community) and trashed the economy. China supported the Khmer Rouge (as fellow communists), but Khmer Rouge aggression against Vietnam resulted in Vietnam invading in 1979 and deposing the Khmer Rouge. But as the decades went by, former Khmer Rouge officials got back in power, and China made nice.
China aspires to be a world power. It's understood that China cannot do this alone. Even the mighty United States has allies it depends on. Who can China depend on? Not a lot. In fact, China has a rather disturbing roster of friends. There's Pakistan, a corrupt nation, always on the verge of falling apart and one of the few remaining sanctuaries for Islamic terrorists. China is also cozy with North Korea, Iran and Myanmar, pariah nations all.
So China has been forced to improvise. This has resulted in uniting the search for allies, with business opportunities. China embraces countries willing to do business (especially if they have needed raw materials), no matter what their international reputation. As a result, China has made friends with some of the most unsavory states of Africa. China is nonplussed by Western disdain at this behavior. It's business, and the outcast states have few nations they can do business with. That cuts down on the competition. Operating conditions are less than ideal, but the Chinese are accustomed to dealing with corruption and criminal gangs. It's really a good fit.
China played on these friendships last year to get Cambodia to expel twenty Chinese citizens (ethnic Turks, or Uighurs) suspected of participating in recent ethnic violence, and sending them back to China. China does not want the separatist minded Uighurs setting up operations outside China, and is using all its diplomatic clout to extradite wanted Chinese citizens from foreign sanctuaries. The United States, and the UN, protested this move. The U.S. went further, and cancelled a promised shipment of free military trucks two months ago. China then stepped up with replacements, along with a $1.2 aid package of grants and loans. Cambodians feel much better about China these days.