Investors, Managers, Brokers, and Culture Workers: How the "New" Chinese are Changing the Meaning of Chineseness in Cambodia

Pál Nyíri, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam
Construction of a Chinese-financed reservoir in Battambang Province, July 2011. Photo taken by the author.
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China has become the largest source of capital in Cambodia. Managers of state enterprises that construct hydropower plants and roads—as well as private investors and managers in mining, agricultural land concessions, and garment manufacturing—wield increasing influence and are beginning to shape labor practices. In this situation, mainland Chinese migrants are no longer seen by the Sino-Khmer as the marginal and suspect outsiders that they were twenty years ago. Rather, for both the increasingly entrenched Sino-Khmer elite and the struggling Sino-Khmer middle classes, they are a source of business opportunities or jobs. The Sino-Khmer have emerged as middlemen both between Chinese capital and the neopatrimonial Cambodian state and between Chinese managers and Khmer labor. This role is predicated upon a display of Chineseness whose form and content is itself rapidly changing under the influence of an increasing number of teachers and journalists who come from the mainland to run Cambodia’s Chinese-language press and schools. This paper will attempt to makes sense of the facets of this change.


Fascinating piece. Is there any way to be apprised of specific Chinese investment numbers in Cambodia? Dick Sterling