Collaborative efforts needed to advance Sino-Myanmar cooperation

By Song Qingrun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/5 22:23:39

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Myanmar President U Htin Kyaw kick started his first state visit to China on Thursday. This tour is of great significance to bilateral ties.

Htin Kyaw's father, Min Thu Wun, is a crucial member of Myanmar's National League for Democracy (NLD), a well-regarded writer as well as a poet. Many of his works have been translated and published in China. Min Thu Wun also translated many Chinese poems into Burmese, introducing Chinese culture to his country. He was an envoy of Sino-Myanmar cultural exchanges.

One year after the NLD assumes power to lead Myanmar, the China-Myanmar relationship has been developing smoothly overall. Nay Pyi Taw welcomed the Beijing-led One Belt and One Road initiative and the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor. Collaborations between the two sides in a variety of fields have been steadily promoted. For instance, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar at the invitation of Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi within a week after the NLD assumed power, becoming the first high-level foreign official to meet the nation's new government. It highlights the close relationship between the two countries as well as Beijing's support for the NLD and Myanmar's transformation and development. Suu Kyi also chose China as her first diplomatic trip abroad outside of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Nevertheless, every relationship has its conflicts. The same goes for relations between China and Myanmar, which share a 2210-kilometer border line. Challenges exist in their ties.

The thorniest issue between the two so far is the constant military clashes in northern Myanmar. Myanmar and its people in the nation's northern region are not the only victims, China and Beijing-Nay Pyi Taw relations are also suffering from the turmoil. Myanmar has never actually had real peace in the 69 years after gaining independence. Endless armed conflicts in northern Myanmar have been threatening the stability of the Sino-Myanmar borders. Flames from the clashes and stray bullets have jeopardized the lives and security of people in Southwest China's Yunnan Province. Trying to settle the increasing number of Myanmar citizens fleeing to Yunnan has also become a heavy burden on China. Meanwhile, border trade is suspended every now and then. This has become a major cause for the incredibly slow development in border areas.

Unstable border regions are also influencing bilateral cross-border economic cooperation. Violence frequently breaks out in Myanmar's Rakhine state due to long-term conflicts between local Buddhists and Muslims. However, Rakhine state is the starting point of the China-Myanmar pipeline project as well as the location of Myanmar's Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone, over which Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw are having discussions for collaborations.

According to Xinhua News Agency, China's investment in Myanmar reached $2.8 billion in the 2016-2017 fiscal year,  a sharp decrease of approximately $500 million from the previous fiscal year. A critical reason for this is Chinese companies are worried about investment security in Myanmar.

Therefore, maintaining peace and stability along the Sino-Myanmar border is a pressing task for both sides. The two nation's governments and people, and northern Myanmar's ethnic forces should all focus on peace and development, jointly safeguard security along the bilateral border and crack down on cross-border crimes.

Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw should also speed up their collaboration and achieve fruitful results under the framework of the Belt and Road initiative. In terms of communication over policies in this regard, negotiations over more delicate details are needed to better connect the two countries' strategies. As a major power, China needs to pay more attention to other nation's comfort zone in cooperation, take Myanmar's pursuit, concerns and interests into account.

It is believed that Htin Kyaw is seeking to upgrade bilateral cooperation, promote the two sides' effort in building a community of common destiny of joint development and prosperity on his tour.

The author is an associate professor at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. opinion@


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