Hopefully Suu Kyi’s China visit will show positive attitude toward Myitsone dam

By Hu Weijia Source:Global Times Published: 2016/8/15 0:23:40

It seems the China-funded Myitsone dam, a symbolic project for Sino-Myanmar cooperation that was suspended in 2011, is coming to a turning point ahead of Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's China visit. Media reports over the weekend announced that Myanmar had set up a committee to review hydropower station projects in the country's Kachin state, including the long-suspended Myitsone dam.

This move is widely viewed as a signal that the project will resume and is believed to be indicative of the new administration's attitude toward Sino-Myanmar economic ties and toward the geopolitical rivalry between the West and China in Southeast Asia. More good news is expected during Suu Kyi's upcoming trip as the new administration may eventually begin touching upon the most sensitive parts of bilateral economic ties, but it may be not realistic that the long standing issue of Myitsone dam will be entirely resolved during Suu Kyi's visit.

Diversified opinions over the construction of the Myitsone dam have been expressed by different groups in Myanmar, including the new government, local armed forces, non-governmental organizations and local residents. Although the government has offered an olive branch to China and may hope to restart the long-suspended Myitsone project, it will not be smooth sailing if Chinese investors can not win support from a wide range of political and public groups.

The Myitsone project is located in Kachin state where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) wields great influence. Factoring in a complex local political environment, China can not simply deal with the government, but has to respect local political powers and earnestly listen to public opinions over the project.

Currently China has  an opportunity in gaining wider support as the Southeast Asian country urgently needs hydropower projects to meet the increasing power demands as the new administration works to restart the nation's economic engine. According to media reports, some officials are urging the public to support hydropower projects in Myanmar, where less than one-third of the population has access to electricity.

According to media reports, Myanmar would get 10 percent of the electricity produced by the Myitsone dam for free if it is put into operation.

Hopefully, Suu Kyi, who enjoys an almost divine status among some Myanmese people, will show a positive attitude toward the project during her upcoming visit to China and ease any lingering vigilance against the China-funded hydropower project by the local population.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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