mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Myanmar and China
China Optimistic About Its Relationship with Myanmar

Freshly appointed as Myanmar’s new “state adviser” by the president and parliament, Aung San Suu Kyi, who is understood to be the country’s de facto executive, has begun planning for Myanmar’s future. In her other capacity as foreign minister, Suu Kyi met with Chinese officials to discuss a stalled dam project Beijing hopes to build in the country:

Last month, China said it would push Myanmar’s new government to resume the controversial dam scheme, saying the contract was still valid.

Former Myanmar president Thein Sein angered Beijing in 2011 by suspending the Chinese-invested Myitsone dam project, about 90 percent of whose power would have gone to China.

Other Chinese projects in the former Burma have proved controversial, among them the Letpadaung copper mine, which has repeatedly sparked protests from people living nearby, and twin Chinese oil and gas pipelines across the country.

With close trade and economic ties between the two countries, it was natural there would be “certain problems”, Wang said, according to a statement by China’s Foreign Ministry late on Tuesday.

“Myself and Foreign Minister Suu Kyi reached a consensus, that all problems can find an appropriate resolution via friendly consultations,” it quoted Wang as saying, without mentioning specific projects.

Beijing sounds optimistic, but it’s difficult to read Suu Kyi, who remains notably vague about all of her plans. The dam will be an important indicator of which way she may take the country.

Many international observers have focused on Myanmar’s democratic elections and human rights provisions—and an ever-present Rohingya problem which doesn’t look likely to disappear. But, from America’s perspective, Myanmar’s political transition has also always been about its relationship with China. Will the U.S.-supported opening put some distance between Myanmar and Beijing, or are Chinese officials right to believe that Suu Kyi will strengthen ties? The relative success of Myanmar’s transition depends on what happens next.

Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • Anthony

    Aung San Suu Kyi has begun planning for Myanmar’s future. Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD (National League for Democracy) may engage China going forward (Myanmar’s transition) but they still must operate within limits chartered by the Tatmadaw (the former junta – Generals of Burma/Myanmar). So what happens next may also reveal junta-China ties. For more background see: thediplomat.com/2016/03/will-myanmar-backslide-on-human-rights/

  • Andrew Allison

    ” . . .about 90 percent of whose power would have gone to China.” A dam with person-hood no less!

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service