The Kingdom of Cambodia has emerged as the 20th-ranked power in the region, improving by two places from last year, according to the fifth edition of the Asia Power Index 2023. The position in the index, which measures a country’s resources and influence to rank the relative power of states, reflects the standing of Cambodia in the international community.
With an overall score of 7.8 out of 100, Cambodia gained 0.7 points, which is an improvement of 10 percent in the overall score, to come up from the 22nd place in the previous year, according to the Sydney-based Lowy Institute that prepares the index.
In 2023, Cambodia is the only country to improve its comprehensive power ranking, said the Australian research institute releasing the index on February 5. Among the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states, Brunei gained 0.4 percent and Laos 0.3 percent.
The Kingdom of Cambodia overtook Sri Lanka and Myanmar to become the region’s 20th-ranked power in 2022.
According to the report, Cambodia is one of just six countries in the region to register an upward change in the overall score. “This was due to a large increase in its diplomatic influence score, reflecting positive views about Cambodia’s ASEAN chairmanship in 2022,” it said.
The Southeast nation, which has reported consistent economic growth for over two decades, performs best in the economic relationships and diplomatic influence measures, for which it ranks 16th. Its lowest ranking is in the resilience measure, coming in at 25th place, says the Lowy Institute.
Cambodia also went up two places for economic relationships, largely because of its participation in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership and a new free-trade agreement with China.
In 2022, Cambodia witnessed its greatest improvement in diplomatic influence, where the country increased its ranking by four places.
However, the cultural influence ranking of the country came down by four places to 21st due to the negative impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic on its tourism industry.
For the first time, Cambodia exerts more influence in the region than expected given its available resources, as indicated by the country’s positive power gap score.
The 2023 edition — which covers five years of data — is the most comprehensive assessment of the changing distribution of power in Asia so far. The fifth edition of the index ranks 26 countries and territories in terms of the power they wield in the Indo-Pacific Region, reaching as far west as Pakistan, as far north as Russia, and as far into the Pacific as Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
In 2023, the top ten countries for overall power are the US, China, Japan, India, Russia, Australia, South Korea, and three ASEAN member states of Singapore, Indonesia and Thailand. The countries that recorded the greatest losses in the power index for 2023 are Russia (down 1.4 points), the US (1.5 points) and China (2.1 points), says the Australian research institute.
The Asia Power Index, launched in 2018, evaluates the balance of power in Asia through 133 indicators across eight thematic measures: military capability and defence networks, economic capability and relationships, diplomatic and cultural influence, as well as resilience and future resources.
The index for 2023 includes three new indicators based on primary research that track high-level diplomatic engagement between countries, enabling new comparisons of diplomatic and defence influence across Asia. These new indicators quantify the number of bilateral and multilateral diplomatic dialogues at the foreign minister level and above held by each indexed country, along with their convening power — the number of visits by regional leaders or foreign ministers hosted by each country.
Stating that despite their economic recoveries, countries in the region are still suffering from the Covid-19 impact, Lowy Institute said most are less economically resilient than prior to the pandemic – have become more dependent on their leading trade partner, in most cases China. “Only two index countries have higher comprehensive power scores in 2022 than they did in 2019. This means few powers are as able to influence the international environment in their favour as they were prior to the pandemic,” it said.