China’s Military Expansion in Cambodia

On 6 December 2023, Chinese warships docked for the first time at Cambodia’s Ream Naval Base. The ships were undergoing a Chinese-funded upgrade that has drawn concerns from the United States. These concerns are primarily over its potential role in China’s military expansion in the Asian seas. Additionally, this event marks a significant development in China’s military expansion in Southeast Asia. And, it reflects broader geopolitical shifts and tensions in the region.

The upgrade and docking of Chinese warships signify deepening military ties between China and Cambodia. It raises questions about the implications for regional security and the balance of power. Thus, this report aims to analyse the impact of these developments on geopolitical dynamics in Southeast Asia. It will focus on the responses from Western and neighbouring countries and the strategic motivations behind China’s investments in Cambodia’s military infrastructure.

Key Judgement 1. It is highly likely that Western countries will pressure Cambodia to increase cooperation with them to counter China’s military expansion in the next 12 months. 

Key Judgement 2. Cambodia’s neighbours will likely counterbalance Beijing’s growing influence in the next 12 months by enhancing their strategic and military partnerships with external powers. 

Key Judgement 3. It is highly likely that China will escalate investments in the Ream Naval Base in the next 12 months. 

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