China-Myanmar corridor should prioritize practical needs of both sides

By Song Qingrun Source:Global Times Published: 2017/11/26 22:18:39

China-Myanmar corridor should benefit both sides

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT

On November 19, China proposed the establishment of a China-Myanmar economic corridor, starting in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, crossing the border, going through the economic center of Myanmar, Mandalay, then splitting into two legs.

One leg would run southeast to the former capital of Yangon, which is another economic center. The other leg would run to the Kyaukpyu special economic zone in the west.

The economic corridor is in line with the development interests of both countries. Some observers in Myanmar claim that the cooperation projects would mainly benefit China. But the economic corridor would take into account the development interests of Myanmar.

Building the corridor will boost the development of Southwest China including Yunnan Province, benefiting the western region's economy and opening up to southwest neighboring countries. It could allow China to gain access to the Bay of Bengal through Myanmar, and also connect the corridor with other projects such as the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) economic corridor.

The economic corridor could help solve the unbalanced regional economic development of Myanmar. The leg from Mandalay to Yangon would link two major economic centers in Myanmar with more developed agriculture and industry and more populated regions. The economic corridor passing through these areas would improve the living standards and socioeconomic growth of many people.

Consider Kyaukpyu in Rakhine State, which is the second most undeveloped state in Myanmar. Social problems such as the Rohingya crisis have arisen because economic development lags behind here. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it, poverty is the root of conflicts. In short, Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists have to compete for limited job and educational opportunities, economic resources and social welfare. This competition aggravates the conflict.

China would like to spur economic development in the western part of Myanmar by way of the economic corridor, which would alleviate local religious and social conflicts and promote stability and development.

The China-Myanmar economic corridor should start with the projects that Myanmar most urgently needs. As Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said, an important aspect of building the corridor is improving the infrastructure and increasing the supply of electricity. Road and bridge construction is also needed to reduce logistics costs and make travel more convenient. After the improvement of the infrastructure, tourism will take a big leap forward.

Support can also be given in agricultural production and food processing. Raising agricultural output and developing the food processing industry will open up markets in China and other regions including Southeast Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Building industrial parks should be an important part of the economic corridor. Under its framework, more effort can be put into improving existing industrial parks in the Kyaukpyu special economic zone.

China and Myanmar have a common interest in environmental protection. Myanmar faces the issue of forest degradation. Southwest China needs both economic development and environmental protection.

The corridor will help Myanmar balance its regional economic development and improve its investment environment by linking up with other projects under the B&R initiative or even other regional cooperation arrangements, boosting its position in regional cooperation.

In response to the Rohingya refugee crisis, unlike US criticism of Myanmar's human rights situation and democracy, China's practical plan will help Myanmar to resolve its internal conflicts by boosting its economy. It is a manifestation of China's regional responsibility and the embodiment of the policy of "creating an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood". With the principle of "achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration," this corridor is an inclusive cooperation system rather than an exclusive one. It will be an economic growth point if other countries such as India, Bangladesh, the US and Japan join the cooperation in terms of projects and investment.

The China-Myanmar economic corridor is a promising, wide-ranging idea. The most important thing is to make sure it tallies with the practical needs of both sides and benefits both peoples.

The author is an associate professor and unit chief of the Bay of Bengal Unit, Institute of South Asian, Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies, China Institutes of Contemporary International
Newspaper headline: China-Myanmar corridor should benefit both sides


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