Cambodia has signed a framework agreement with China Great Wall Industry Corporation for the acquisition of a communications satellite, along with its associated ground infrastructure and launch.
The satellite agreement was one of nineteen agreements made between Cambodian and Chinese officials during a bilateral trade meeting on January 11, 2018, aimed at increasing trade between the two countries to U.S.$6 billion by 2020.
The satellite agreement was signed by China Great Wall Industry Corporation and the Royal Group of Cambodia, a conglomerate with interests in telecommunications and transportation. The satellite, called Techo-1 – Khmer for “strong power,” will be built by China Great Wall Industry Corp. for Cambodia, but the framework agreement makes provisions for technology transfer between the two countries, perhaps implying that Cambodian engineers will be involved in its construction.
The agreement also cements Cambodia’s position along China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a network of land and maritime trade routes across the Eurasian landmass from China to Europe and points in-between. Cambodia will be integral to Chinese efforts to provide connectivity throughout Southeast Asia as a part of the BRI.
The BRI is a U.S.$1.3 trillion infrastructure development initiative that encompasses roads, railways, fiber-optic cabling, and pipelines across the Eurasian land mass, known as the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB), and ports, canals, and submarine cabling from China to Europe via the South China Sea, Southeast Asia, Indian Ocean, Arabian Gulf, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea via the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road (MSR). Added to these programmes are an Air Silk Road that involves the development of new air routes and air travel hubs, and a Digital or Cyber Silk Road that will provide digital connectivity throughout Eurasia and beyond.
Critical to the BRI, and its myriad offshoots, is the Belt and Road Initiative Space Information Corridor, also know as the Space Silk Road, promulgated in the 2016 Chinese Space White Paper.
This Space Silk Road seeks to provide not only connectivity across the BRI region through satellite communications – to include broadcasting and broadband Internet – but also positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) services through China’s Beidou satellite navigation system, and Earth observation, environmental monitoring, and even space science and space exploration cooperation among states participating in the BRI and the Space Silk Road.
In a joint statement with China, Cambodia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs endorsed efforts by the two countries “to fully implement the Outline Plan for Jointly Promoting Cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, and to concretely promote production capacity and investment cooperation.”
“The project will be conducive to enhancing the traditional friendship between China and Cambodia, helping to promote the construction of the ‘One Belt and Road’ spatial information corridor and enhancing the level of connectivity between China and Cambodia and the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] region,” the China Great Wall Industry Corporation said in a Chinese-language press release.