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Chinese Aid Wins Hearts, Twists Arms in Southeast Asia

Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2008

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- In search of raw materials, China has increasingly used development assistance to court Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam, three countries "forgotten" since the Vietnam War. The U.S., too, has stepped up its activities in the region since the Sept. 11 attacks, although its efforts have focused more on counterterrorism cooperation than on directly addressing the growing Chinese influence. But as Southeast Asia increasingly becomes the object of the two powers' attention, some in the region are expressing discomfort with their growing rivalry.

A January 2008 report (.pdf) by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) noted that China outpaced the U.S. in assistance to lesser developed Southeast Asian countries last year. Cambodia, for example, received $689 million from China in 2007, along with pledges of $1 billion in loans in 2008 for two dam projects to power the electricity-starved countryside. That's far above the U.S.'s total assistance of $55 million in 2007, mostly disbursed through non-governmental organizations (NGOs). ...

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