Procurement: China Does Not Judge

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February 18, 2014: China continues to be a major source of military aid for Cambodia. Recently China delivered another 30,000 military uniforms and 26 military trucks. This was part of a 2012 deal where China agreed to provide $20 million worth of military aid. In addition Cambodia has purchased some major items from China. For example, in 2013 Cambodia received twelve Chinese made Z-9 helicopters. But what cash-poor Cambodia really needs is the freebies. China has been helpful with that for years. In 2011 China donated 50,000 field uniforms (including hats and boots) and in 2010 China donated 257 military trucks along with weapons. The donated infantry weapons tend to be older models. That's because China is introducing a new and improved model of their QBZ-95 assault rifle (also called the Type 95) to their own troops. The QBZ-95 is a distinctive bullpup design (the magazine is behind the trigger) that China has been issuing to its troops for over a decade now. That means China has plenty of surplus Type 81 (improved AK-47) rifles (which the QBZ-95 replaced) to either put into storage, or distribute to allies. Cambodia has bought some Type 95s, for elite units. But most everyone else has the second hand Type 81. AK-47s have been widely used in Cambodia and neighboring countries for half a century.

Back in 2011 Cambodia really needed the Chinese military aid. That was because Cambodia was then at war (sort of) with neighboring Thailand. That dispute (since resolved, sort of) was all about a badly marked border. The basic problem was that the 730 kilometer long border with Thailand was defined in 1907 by the placement of only 73 border markers. This has left the exact location of the border open to interpretation. Occasionally these interpretations clash, as happened back in 2011. Neither side wanted a full scale war, even though Thailand has a larger and better equipped military. By 2011 Cambodia had doubled its annual military budget over a few years to $500 million. But Thailand spent more than six times that, and had done so for decades. Thailand has 300,000 troops, Cambodia only 100,000.

Each side only deployed only a few thousand troops to the disputed area. The fighting consisted of infantry skirmishes. Anything more serious would have found the Cambodians at a big disadvantage. But as long as the fighting stayed low level the Cambodian troops could show up wearing Chinese combat uniforms, carrying well-used Chinese weapons and travelling in Chinese trucks and put up some effective resistance. That did not have much impact on Thai morale and eventually both sides negotiated a settlement.

Until 2013 the U.S. matched, and often surpassed Chinese aid. But last year the U.S. and other foreign observers determined that the national elections were rigged and a lot of aid programs were halted. But China is not bothered by corrupt officials or rigged elections, which is why Chinese aid is welcomed in so many countries that the rest of the world stays away from.

 

 


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