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Tiny Chinese presence in transport sober reminder

By Xu Wei | China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-06 10:04

Anyone on their first trip to Phnom Penh might be surprised by the lack of transport options-except for the easy availability of auto rickshaws, also known as tuk-tuks.

With tuk-tuk drivers waving at you unswervingly and following a few steps behind to offer their prices, I realize Chinese people here might be one of their main sources for clients-another reminder of our widespread presence here.

It is never pleasant-nor safe according to local friends-to take a long walk under the scorching, tropical sun. So most of the time, I respond to their offer of "hello, hello" with some bargaining, before taking a trip that at least saves me from being drenched in sweat.

The Cambodia Daily reported that there are now more than 6,000 tuk-tuks in Phnom Penh, and a majority of them seem to be serving the tourist population in the country.

However, even though the Chinese presence is widely seen in Cambodia, from the large number of Chinese people at the airport to the Chinese workers and construction equipment at building sites, it is difficult to spot any in the transport sector.

Vehicles and motorcycles of Japanese brands, ranging from Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi, are so popular on the streets of Phnom Penh that you can barely see any vehicle brands from China, South Korea or even the United States.

The Global Times reported last year that Chinese motorcycles had dominated the Southeast Asian market in the 1990s and early 2000s, but cut-throat competition in the local market forced the Chinese producers to lower the prices, which eventually lowered the quality of their products.

The report was confirmed by a Chinese friend of mine who is based in Phnom Penh, who drives a Toyota Land Cruiser himself.

Another friend, who is a Cambodian, said the reason why people choose Japanese cars over other brands is the easy availability of car parts and car maintenance services in Phnom Penh.

To me, that is a sobering reminder for Chinese companies keen to tap into the Southeast Asian market: branding takes a lot more than advertising and undertaking of contracts.

It means the winning of people's hearts with your products and services.

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