We will never forget that Cambodia was among the first group of countries to establish diplomatic ties with New China when it faced a foreign blockade in its early days. Cambodia was firm in supporting China's efforts to restore its lawful seat in the United Nations. When China acted to safeguard its territorial sovereignty and maritime interests and was devoted to resolving related disputes through peaceful negotiation, Cambodia did not hesitate to speak out to uphold justice. When China's Sichuan, Qinghai and Gansu provinces were hit by natural disasters, the Cambodian royal family, government leaders and public shared our grief and extended a helping hand to us. We have a Chinese saying -- "Hardship reveals true friendship." Similarly, a Cambodian saying goes "Only in tough time can one tell a true friend from a false one." Our two peoples value our ties and treat each other as true friends; the China-Cambodia friendship has developed deep roots in the hearts of both peoples.
China and Cambodia are neighbors who share a bond of brotherhood. The two countries have supported each other in improving the livelihoods of their respective people. China built Cambodia's first four-lane national highway as an assistance project and was contracted to build Cambodia's first cement plant, first coal-fired power station and its largest hydropower station. The booming Sihanoukville Special Economic Zone stands as testimony to how fruitful China-Cambodia cooperation can be. By June 2016, 100 companies were operating in the zone with a total investment of 280 million U.S. dollars, creating over 13,000 jobs. By strengthening economic complementarity and unlocking potential, our two countries have expanded and upgraded cooperation in infrastructure, agriculture, water conservancy, energy, resources, information and telecommunications; such cooperation projects are expected to deliver early returns.
China and Cambodia enjoy flourishing people-to-people and cultural exchanges, which have added strong momentum to the growth of their relations. Chinese cultural relics experts have spent years in Cambodia to protect and restore the Chau Say Tevoda Temple and the Ta Keo Temple in Angkor. Chinese doctors have performed free cataract operations for over 1,000 patients across Cambodia. Chinese agro-technicians have passed on agro-technologies to Cambodian villagers during the day and taught them Chinese in the evening, moves that have been warmly received by the locals. The Confucius Institute launched in Cambodia in 2009 now offers classes to over 10,000 students in 14 different locations. By 2015, more than 1,000 Cambodian students were studying in China on scholarship programs sponsored by the Chinese government.
Both China and Cambodia are at crucial stages in their respective development and face the similar tasks of deepening reform, opening further and upgrading their economic structures. Both countries are committed to economic integration and cooperation in our region. Having reached a new stage in its relations with Cambodia, China will work with Cambodia to strengthen their bilateral comprehensive strategic partnership in a wide range of areas so as to deliver greater benefits to the two peoples.
-- We will also deepen political trust. China will maintain high-level visits and enhance communication with Cambodia. I hope that the two countries will step up exchanges between their governments, political parties and legislatures as well as at the sub-national level. China will continue to support Cambodia in pursuing a development path that suits its own national conditions and firmly support Cambodia in safeguarding sovereignty, maintaining domestic stability and accelerating economic development.
-- We will take solid steps to promote win-win cooperation. China will continue to examine how our respective development strategies can complement one another and launch priority projects within the "Belt and Road" initiative to better involve Cambodia. We will, in light of local conditions, deepen cooperation in areas such as agriculture, water conservancy, infrastructure, information and telecommunications. China will take measures to increase imports from Cambodia and scale up two-way trade.
-- We will strengthen coordination with Cambodia on the international stage. China supports Cambodia as an important member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and will deepen collaboration with Cambodia in East Asia, the Lancang-Mekong River, the United Nations and other regional and multilateral arenas. The purpose of such collaboration is to uphold the common interests of our two countries and other developing countries and build an Asian community with a shared future. East Asia cooperation has entered a critical stage. We should continue to focus on the general goal of development and promote sound and steady progress in East Asia.
-- We will endeavor to enhance people-to-people friendship. China will work with Cambodia to unleash the full potential of the Confucius Institute and the China Culture Center and enhance cooperation in education, culture, tourism and health. With these efforts, we can deepen mutual understanding and friendship between our two peoples, especially among young people, and ensure that the China-Cambodia friendship will be passed on from generation to generation.
I am convinced that with our concerted efforts, the traditional friendship between China and Cambodia will bear more fruits, allowing us to forever be good neighbors and genuine trusted friends.