Myanmar today is guide for NK of tomorrow

By Ding Gang Source:Global Times Published: 2013-4-17 21:18:01

The sanctions put on Myanmar by Western countries caused at least two phenomena: Myanmar's national economy was suffocated, and its dependence on China became stronger.

These phenomena turned out to be the decisive reason why Myanmar carried out reform and opening-up afterward in exchange for the sanctions being lifted.

During the sanction period, China provided extensive aid and helped develop infrastructure such as hydroelectric stations, some of which were finally approved by the Myanmese government though seeing some opposition.

These projects have benefited the people of Myanmar. For example, the Yeywa power station, which was built on Chinese concessional loans, has relieved the high pressure caused by the growing demand for electricity in Yangon.

However, Myanmar is still alert to its northern neighbor. The former military junta, though realizing the importance of keeping balance with China in terms of economy and politics, was left with no choice under the Western sanctions.

Myanmar's decision to open up, on the one hand, will accommodate the requirements from the West for more support; on the other hand, it will add weight to its attempt to balance an over-dependence on China.

The above two purposes directly contributed to the incident of the Myitsone dam. The stranded project played a significant role in lifting Western sanctions, and as a result, more capital from the US and Europe may come in, elbowing China out to an unfair position.

However, this unexpected loss will not change the fact that a reformed and open-minded Myanmar will increasingly stabilize economic trade with China.

They will not become adversaries as expected by some.

The revival of Myanmar will enliven the whole of Southeast Asia, promoting the development of India and Bangladesh, and expanding the radius of Sino-ASEAN cooperation to the south.

Applying the same ideology to North Korea, we would find that an open North Korea would be more beneficial to China, even though problems like Myitsone might occur.

The relation between North Korea and China is different from that with Myanmar. But considering the similarities in the national situations of both countries, is it possible that North Korea, like Myanmar, is also hoping a more balanced position with China?

North Korea's heavy dependence on China in terms of foreign trade has reportedly topped 70 percent. North Koreans must have already realized this, although they never publicly talk about it.

However, as long as the relation between North Korea and the US has any chance of improving, a balancing out process remains a feasible option. China's interests will thereupon be affected.

After seeing North Korea from the example of Myanmar, China should take actions. One of the important moves is to encourage North Korea to step on an open road, and aid North Korea to improve the living conditions of its people.

As for investment of Chinese enterprises in North Korea, these companies should take into consideration that North Korea may also seek to strike a balance, much as Myanmar is doing.

For sure, North Korea with an open society, and the involvement of the US, South Korea and Japan will bring about troubles and problems for China. But these fears will not be conducive to China's progress when dealing with these powers.

Above all, a miraculous development from a poor and weak country to the world's second largest economy makes China indispensable in regional affairs. We should be confident.

The significance of North Korea's openness is not less than that of Myanmar. The economic revival of the Korean Peninsula will not only serve as a boost to the development of Northeast Asia, but also stimulate the prosperity of Russia's far-east as well. No one is willing to spoil this opportunity by using a nuclear bomb.

The author is a senior editor with the People's Daily. He is now stationed in Bangkok.

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