In Cambodia』s Chinese business community, 「Big Brother Fu」 is a name to be reckoned with. A former officer in China』s People』s Liberation Army, his thickset build and parade-ground voice reinforce the authority suggested by his nickname. But his physical bearing pales next to the heft of his political connections. Few, if any, foreign investors in this small but strategically important Southeast Asian nation enjoy access as favoured as that of Fu Xianting.
At state events, Mr Fu wears an official red sash studded with gold insignia, attire that hints at his ties to Hun Sen, Cambodia』s authoritarian ruler. So close is Mr Fu to the prime minister that the leader of his personal bodyguard unit, some of whose members have been convicted of savage assaults on opposition lawmakers, calls him 「a brother」 and has pledged to 「create a safe passage for all of Mr Fu』s endeavours」.
These connections have helped Mr Fu and his company, Unite International, win a rare concession to develop one of the most beautiful stretches of Cambodia』s coastline into a $5.7bn tourist destination. More broadly, they signal how big money, secret dealings and high-level backing from China』s Communist party have helped pull Phnom Penh firmly into Beijing』s sphere of influence.
As China has sought to assert its authority in the South China Searegion , some Southeast Asian nations have bolstered their ties with the US, including Vietnam and the Philippines. Cambodia is China』s staunchest counterweight, giving the country of 15m people an outsized role in one of the world』s most fraught geopolitical tussles. With an effective veto in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the region』s top diplomatic grouping, Cambodia has a powerful weapon to wield on China』s behalf.
Mr Fu』s story shows how private Chinese companies, backed by Beijing』s diplomatic resources and the unrivalled muscle of its state-run banks, are spearheading a commercial engagement that helps form the foundation for China』s political and strategic ambitions.
「In terms of money, China is the number one,」 says Phay Siphan, Cambodia』s minister of state within the council of ministers. 「The power of China is getting much bigger . . . we choose China because [its investment] does not come with conditions.」
「A number of western investments come with attachments,」 he adds. 「[They say] we have to be good in democracy. We have to be good in human rights. But in Cambodia we went through a civil war and we understand that if you have no food in your stomach, you cannot have human rights.」
However, An investigation by the Financial Times reveals the favoured treatment that Chinese companies have won from Cambodia』s leadership, resulting in the award of land that far exceeded legal size limits, the apparent overriding of a state decree for the benefit of a Chinese investor and official support against the protests of thousands of dispossessed farmers.
An , judging by (??) an analysis of state documents shows that in obtained by the FTseveral cases, controversial Chinese investments were facilitated personally by Mr Hun Sen, a ruler of 31 years who insists on being referred to as 「Lord Prime Minister and Supreme Military Commander」. Global Witness, the UK campaign group, claimed in a report this year that the Cambodian leader presides over a 「huge network of secret dealmaking and nepotism」 that has allowed his e prime minister』sfamily to amass stakes in leading industries and help 「secure the prime minister』s political fortress」.
Cambodia』s government has accused Global Witness of having an agenda and refused to comment on its allegations. Mr Phay Siphan did not reply to repeated phone calls and emails about the Global Witness report.
Mr Hun Sen』s personal assistance was crucial in providing Mr Fu, 67, with his early break. A letter written in October 2009 by the prime minister wishes Mr Fu 「complete success」 in developing a 33 suareq km ilometre area of coastal land on a 99-year lease — even though some of the land fell within a protected national park. The prime minister also set up a special committee with representatives from seven ministries to assist with the project』s execution. of the project.
「I express my personal thanks and support for your company to carry out this tourism project,」 Mr Hun Sen wrote in the letter, a copy of which was seen of which was obtained by the FT, seen by the FT. It The letter wasis dated nine months after Mr Fu』s company U nite International, had donated 220 motorbikes to Mr Hun Sen』s bodyguard unit, a 3,000-strong private army equipped with armoured personnel carriers, missile launchers and Chinese-made machine guns. The gift, according to the Chinese company, was the latest in a series of donations to the unit, which is charged with guarding the prime minister and his wife, Bun Rany, officially known as the 「Most Glorious and Upright Person of Genius」.
At a ceremony to present the motorbikes, Sok An, a deputy prime minister, was photographed making a speech in appreciation of Mr Fu.
『Our brother of many years』
In an account of the ceremony at which the to present the motorbikes were presented — published on the Chinese company』s website — Sok An, a deputy prime minister, was quoted as 「thanking the Unite Group for this gift of 220 motorbikes and several previous donations of material assistance to Hun Sen』s bodyguard . . . which have fulfilled the duty of donation to the royal government」.
Building on this foundation, Unite formed a 「military-commercial alliance」 with the bodyguard unit in April 2010, a highly unusual accolade arrangement for a foreign company in Cambodia. At a ceremony to celebrate the alliance, Lieutenant General Hing Bunheang, commander of the bodyguards and one of Hun Sen』s closest associates, showered praise on Mr Fu.
「Mr Fu is our brother of many years who has made an outstanding contribution to the development of Cambodia,」 Lt Gen Hing Bunheang is heard saying on a video, according to a Chinese voiceover. 「Mr Fu』s business is our business. We will create a safe passage for all of Mr Fu』s endeavours.」
Such accolades represented a high point in Mr Fu』s business career, which has seen him move from at least a decade in the People』s Liberation Army to a position as manager and chairman of Chinese state-owned enterprises, company documents say. His business dealings in Cambodia began in the early 1990s when he organised an exhibition of Chinese agricultural machinery. He holds an officiala position in Beijing on a committee of the China Association of International Friendly Contact, which reports to the foreign ministry. But his business profile inside China appears almost non-existent, with corporate databases showing only a role as 「legal representative」 of Beijing Tian Yi Hua Sheng Technology, a company with only just Rmb2m ($300,000) in registered capital.
這些讚譽代表著付憲亭事業的高潮，根據公司文件，他至少曾從軍10年，而後成為中國國有企業的經理和董事長。他在柬埔寨的事業起源於上世紀90年代初，當時他組織了一次中國農業機械展。他在北京中國國際友好聯絡會(China Association of International Friendly Contact)一委員會任職，該聯絡會向中國外交部報告。但他在中國國內商界幾乎默默無聞，公司數據庫顯示，他只擔任北京添屹華盛科貿有限公司(Beijing Tian Yi Hua Sheng Technology)的「法定代表人」，這家公司的註冊資本只有200萬元人民幣（合30萬美元）。
In Phnom Penh, though, Mr Fu is probably China』s most influential businessperson, an official adviser to Hun Sen and the recipient of high Cambodian state and military honours. But notwithstanding these gold-plated connections, Mr Fu』s investment in Cambodia has proven controversial.
Environmental groups protested that the Chinese company had been able to secure land inside the Ream National Park, which was protected from development under a royal decree. Licadho, a Cambodian human rights group, complained that hundreds of farming families were evicted from their homes. Villagers staged protests to hamper the Chinese company』s work.
環境組織抗議稱，這家中國公司成功獲得雲壤國家公園(Ream National Park)內的土地，而根據皇家法令，這個公園受到保護不準開發。柬埔寨人權組織Licadho抱怨稱，數百家農戶被趕出家園。村民發動抗議，阻礙這家中國公司的工作。
In May 2010, a decree from the Council of Ministers revoked licences held by Mr Fu』s company for the development of the Golden Silver Gulf, the name of his proposed resort, according to a copy of the decree obtained by the FT. The document passed responsibility for the area over to the environment and although news on the project lapsed ministry, but it remains unclear whether development work was ever actually halted.
根據英國《金融時報》獲得的一份指令副本，2010年5月，柬埔寨部長理事會下令撤銷了付憲亭旗下公司在他擬開發的金銀灣(Golden Silver Gulf)度假區的開發許可。這份文件將該地區的管理責任移交給環境部，但現在仍不清楚開發工作是否已真正停止。
Contacted by phone and email, Mr Fu declined to comment on the decree revoking his licences but said the approvals he won from Mr Hun Sen』s government had been secured because of his reputation as a trusted businessman in Cambodia and had nothing to do with his 「military-commercial alliance」 with the bodyguard unit.
Early this year, Mr Fu re-emerged eThis year, once again stepped into the limelight. Awhen a subsidiary of Unite International, Yeejia Tourism, announced several deals new business agreements relating to the project, signalling a resumption of activity. Asked how the Chinese company had been able to overcome the decree revoking its land concession, Sao Sopheap, a spokesman for the environment ministry, said would only say at a news conference Yeejia had all the necessary licences and was free to go ahead to proceed.
Mr Hun Sen has not always been pro-China. He once labelled it the 「root of everything that is evil」 because of Beijing』s support for the genocidal Khmer Rouge, which killed an estimated 1.7m Cambodians in the 1970s.
But over the past 15 years, the Cambodian leader has gradually become China』s most reliable supporter in Southeast Asia, presiding over the sale of his country』s choicest assets to Chinese companies, forging closer military links and praising Beijing as a 「most trustworthy friend」.
This elevation of China in Phnom Penh』s affections has at times translated into a cold shoulder to the US, as President Barack Obama found out during an East Asian summit in Phnom Penh in 2012. As the first sitting US president to visit Cambodia approached the government building, he saw two large banners proclaiming: 「Long Live the People』s Republic of China」.
In the 20 years from 1992, when the west started to Western nations were engage in building democracy in Cambodia, donor nations delivered some $12bn in loans and grants — a large portion of which was never spent on development but went instead to pay the salaries of expensive consultants, according to Sebastian Strangio, author of Hun Sen』s Cambodia , a book published in 2014.
西方國家從1992年起參與柬埔寨民主建設，20年來這些捐贈國提供了約120億美元貸款和援助。據《洪森的柬埔寨》(Hun Sen』s Cambodia)作者塞巴斯蒂安•斯特蘭焦(Sebastian Strangio)表示，其中一大部分並沒有花在發展上，而是支付了昂貴的顧問費。
By contrast, China has invested an estimated total of $9.6bn in the decade to 2013; and about a further $13bn is yet to come, according to the Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace, a think-tank in Phnom Penh.
與之相比，中國在至2013年的十年間向柬埔寨投入了96億美元，而且據智庫柬埔寨合作與和平研究所(Cambodian Institute for Cooperation and Peace)的資料，中國還將進一步投入130億美元。
But China』s magnetism is not confined to its investment firepower. Chinese companies, backed by the China Development Bank and other powerful institutions, have a reputation for delivering crucial infrastructure projects quickly and without delays caused by human rights and environmental objections.
不過，中國的吸引力不僅局限於其投資實力。在中國國家開發銀行(China Development Bank)和其他強大機構支持下，中國企業建立起了一種聲譽，即能快速交付重要基礎設施項目，不會因人權和環境方面的反對而延遲。
An example is the $800m Lower Sesan 2 dam which is being built being built in northeastern Cambodia by HydroLancang, a state-owned Chinese company. The 400MW dam has been hit by persistent protests from thousands of villagers who are set to be displaced or lose their livelihoods, but HydroLancang has not taken a backward step and it remains on schedule for completion in 2019.
比如由中國國企雲南華能瀾滄江水電有限公司(HydroLancang)承建的價值8億美元的塞桑河下游2號大壩(Lower Sesan 2)項目。由於面臨流離失所、失去生計來源等問題，當地數千村民對這個裝機容量400兆瓦的水電站進行了多次抗議，令大壩建設受到嚴重影響，但該項目仍定於2019年完工。
The secrecy with which Chinese companies often operate matches the proclivities of Mr Hun Sen』s trusted elite, helping the firms to win a lion』s share of land concessions granted to foreigners by the Cambodian government. Of some 8m hectares (80,000 sq km) granted to companies between 1994 and 2012, nearly 60 per cent or 4.6m ha — an area larger than the Netherlands — went to Chinese interests, according to estimates by the Cambodia Centre for Human Rights, a group funded mostly by western donors.
據柬埔寨人權中心(Cambodia Centre for Human Rights)估計，1994年至2012年間約有800萬公頃（8萬平方公里）土地授權給了企業，其中近60%——460萬公頃，比荷蘭國土面積還大——給了中國企業。柬埔寨人權中心主要由西方捐贈者資助。
In addition to Mr Fu』s tourism project, aA blend of secrecy and elite contacts is evident in two other large Chinese investments that were enabled by Mr decrees from Hun Sen and his executive, according to copies of the decrees. One involved a 360 sq km land concession for a $3.8bn investment by Union Development Group, a subsidiary of the Wanlong Group, a large Chinese property developer in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin. The other was a 430 sq km concession for a $1bn investment by Heng Fu Sugar, one of China』s largest sugar producers, based in the southern province of Guangdong. The combined size of these concessions is larger than Phnom Penh, the capital.
這些授權指令的副本顯示，在洪森及其官員放行的另外兩個中國大型投資項目中，也存在明顯的秘密交易和精英人脈。這兩個項目一個是優聯投資發展集團(Union Development Group)投資38億美元獲得360平方公里的土地特許權。優聯是天津大型房地產開發商萬隆集團(Wanlong Group)旗下子公司。另一個是總部位於廣東省的恆福糖業(Heng Fu Sugar)投資10億美元獲得430平方公里的土地特許權。恆福糖業是中國最大的糖生產商之一。這些土地加起來比柬埔寨首都金邊的面積都大。
Both investments have triggered waves of protests by displaced farmers and both exceeded the 100 sq km legal limit on concessions to any one single company. Heng Fu Sugar, however, skirted this law by setting up five separate companies to each receive a contiguous land concession slightly smaller than the legal limit, according to concession documents.
Although each of the five companies carries a different name — Heng Rui, Heng Yue, Heng Non, Rui Feng and Lan Feng — company executives acknowledged they are in fact all owned by Heng Fu Sugar. Tan Jiangxia, the company』s representative on the plantation in the central province of Preah Vihear, explained how the company avoided the restriction. 「This is related to a clause in the land concession law. One company is only allowed to get hold of 10,000 hectares or less, so we have kept the land under each company at under 10,000 hectares,」 Mr Tan says.
A good friend to have
Big investment deals have cemented Beijing』s relations with Phnom Penh, but they have also helped yield political dividends for China as it imposes claims to disputed areas in the South China Sea against opposition from the US and Southeast Asian rivals . With US destroyers sailing close to Chinese-built islands equipped with anti-ship missiles, the South China Sea has become one of the world』s most highly charged flashpoints.
As regional tensions have grown, so has Cambodia』s value to Beijing. Of particular use is Phnom Penh』s membership in Asean. Because Asean works by consensus, the objections of one member can thwart any group initiative.
Cambodia used this effective veto to protect China in July. Asean was poised to issue an official statement mentioning an international tribunal』s ruling that there was no basis under UN law for China』s sweepingterritorial claims in the South China Sea. But after Cambodia objected, a watered-down final communique was issued with no mention of the tribunal』s ruling, making vague calls for peace instead.
China, which had pledged $600m in aid for Phnom Penh just days before the Asean meeting, reacted with gratitude and public delight. Wang Yi, the foreign minister, said in a statement thatBeijing 「highly appreciates」 Cambodia』s stand in the meeting, which history would show was 「correct」. A few days after the meeting, Beijing had another gesture for Phnom Penh, said it would build a $16m National Assembly hall in Phnom Penh.
「Since the ruling against China of the [international] tribunal in July, China has offered Cambodia $600m in aid and in return Cambodia has at least twice blocked Asean statements criticising China,」 said Murray Hiebert, Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank.
智庫國際戰略研究中心(Center for Strategic and International Studies)的東南亞問題專家默里•希伯特(Murray Hiebert)表示：「自今年7月（國際）仲裁庭作出對中國不利的裁決之後，中國向柬埔寨提供了6億美元的援助，作為回報，柬埔寨至少兩次阻止了東盟發布批評中國的聲明。」
「Cambodia gets a lot in return. It gets foreign aid, it gets debt forgiveness and for a government that is very dependent on foreign aid, it gets critical Chinese aid. And the Chinese don』t ask questions on human rights.」
Additional reporting by Tat Oudom