*Dr. Neak Chandarith is the Designated Director of the Institute for International Studies and Public Policy, Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). He is also the founding director of Cambodia 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Research Centre at RUPP and a member of Board of Directors at Cambodia Development Center.
**Dr Heng Kimkong is the Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Cambodian Education Forum. He is also a lecturer at Paññāsāstra University of Cambodia and a Visiting Senior Research Fellow at Cambodia Development Center.
*** Dr. Gu Jiayun is the Director of the Center for Cambodian Studies, Beijing Foreign Studies University.
China’s global image suffered when it was found that the novel coronavirus that caused the global COVID-19 pandemic originated from Wuhan city in the north of China back in early 2020. Discrimination against Chinese people was reported in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The blame was particularly placed on China and how it suppressed critical information until it was too late for the rest of the world to prepare for what was coming. In addition to its early mishandling of COVID-19, China’s image problem also stemmed from other actions and approaches that have generally not been well received by the international community, particularly democratic countries.
A couple of years into the pandemic, however, the narrative has changed. In the case of Cambodia, the image of China has somehow also improved due in part to China’s successful vaccine diplomacy and a continuing inflow of Chinese investment into Cambodia driven by China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative.