70. Memorandum From the Deputy Director of the Office of Southeast Asian Affairs (Whittington) to the Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs (Robertson)1


  • Chinese Communist Aid to Cambodia

Attached is Despatch No. 278, dated March 10, 1958,2 from Phnom Penh on the above subject. This is an excellent Despatch, and contains information on the Communist Aid Programs to Cambodia to date, together with possible repercussions on the United States aid program to Cambodia and United States policy toward Cambodia.

We have prepared a summary of this Despatch, which is also attached. You may find this summary useful in forthcoming hearings before Congressional Committees.

Attachment No. 2


Communist Bloc activities in Cambodia started in the Spring of 1956. These activities have included aid and trade agreements with Communist China, agreements with Czechoslovakia, agreements with the Soviet Union, agreements with Poland, various gifts to Cambodia [Page 230] outside these agreements, and preliminary talks with Yugoslavia and North Viet-Nam. By far the largest aid program and the major activity has been carried on by the Communist Chinese.

This Communist Chinese aid program appears to be a means by which the Communist Chinese hope to gain respectability in Cambodia and Southeast Asia. The Communist Chinese apparently hope to remove the stigma of “imperialism” with which Red China and Asian Communism were saddled during the Viet Minh invasion of Cambodia in 1954 and Viet Minh sponsorship of uprising and terrorism within Cambodia. The Communist Chinese apparently consider the $22.9 million program as a cheap price to pay for a “good neighbor” reputation. All techniques of the Communist Chinese aid program appear to be devoted to pleasing the Cambodians, to flattering them, and to greasing the skids in preparation for the day the “good neighbor” wishes to push Cambodia actively into the satellite orbit.

While the aid programs are the most spectacular, the trade agreements may be more dangerous for Cambodia in the long-run. Cambodia’s exports are low-quality basic products which find difficulty in selling on western markets, with the exception of rubber. For these products to move, they must have either special incentives given by the Cambodian Government or importing countries (such as France), or be the subject of bilateral trade agreements such as those carried on by the Communist bloc. At present the former situation obtains, but if these export incentives are removed, increasing trade with the Communist bloc is a distinct possibility, and the trade agreements which at present are dead letters may suddenly take on great importance. This indicates the importance of emphasizing in our economic aid program the development of improved diversified production to enable Cambodia to export competitively.

[Here follows the body of the summary which is included in the microfiche supplement.]

  1. Source: Department of State, FE/SEA Files: Lot 63 D 73, 16.2 CPR Communist China, 1958–1960. Confidential. The memorandum and summary were drafted by C. Hoyt Price and cleared by J. Graham Parsons and Gardner Palmer.
  2. Not attached. (Ibid., Central Files, 851H.0060/3–1058) An attached summary of the despatch is printed in part below.