China's Role in the Cambodian People's Party's Quest for Legitimacy
- Contemporary Southeast Asia: A Journal of International and Strategic Affairs
- ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute
- Volume 43, Number 2, August 2021
- pp. 395-419
- Additional Information
The Cambodian People's Party (CPP) has consistently emphasized its ability to deliver economic growth to claim performance-based legitimacy for its rule. Given the dynamic nature of performance legitimacy, the CPP is thus in continuous search of additional resources to sustain economic development. Given Cambodia's deteriorating political relationships with Western countries, the CPP has become increasingly reliant on engagement with China to support the country's economic growth and preserve the party's legitimacy. Drawing mainly from fieldwork conducted in Cambodia from 2018 to 2020, this article analyses the CPP's tactics in pursuit of performance-based legitimation from 1993 to 2021 and the impact of engagement with China on the CPP's continuing quest for legitimacy. It concludes that although increased trade with and investment from China has enhanced the CPP's performance-based legitimacy, there have also been negative outcomes arising from the intersection of Cambodia's neo-patrimonial system and Chinese capital and resident nationals, as is evident in the case of the Chinese presence in Sihanoukville.