I watched the opening ceremony at the Golden Tower casino in Phnom Penh, an establishment where all staff speak Chinese and even the “Please Leave Your Guns Here” sign at the entrance is only in Chinese. This establishment, according to my hostess — Lina Chancel, the Chinese-Cambodian general manager of the real estate company Les Jardins du Bassac — caters mainly to garment factory owners. The banquet was organised by Mr Van, the Sino-Khmer chairman of the Entrepreneurs Association that mostly represents the garment industry. Mr. Van and his nine siblings are a significant entrepreneurial family here — and Mr. Van says that they have, between them, ten nationalities. I overhear his wife, who is equally fluent in French and Mandarin, say to someone in Chinese: “I used to be French, but now I am Chinese.”
The party is fairly low-key. CCTV-1’s broadcast, in Mandarin, is projected on a number of screens. Most people in attendance seem to be either Sino-Khmer or from Taiwan or Hong Kong; not many mainlanders, attesting perhaps to the fact that there aren’t many yet who made it to this relatively elite club. So apart from one teacher from Liaoning, who is very excited and goes on toasting to China’s century-long dream, there aren’t any shouts of Go China. The strongest cheers by far come when the Cambodian team enters, and by the time China appears most people are gone.