Suu Kyi visit helps build ties with Myanmar

By Bi Shihong Source:Global Times Published: 2015-6-9 22:13:02

The International Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) announced on Friday that Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in Myanmar, had been invited by the CPC to visit China on Wednesday. During her five-day visit, Suu Kyi is scheduled to meet with the Chinese leadership, and her first China visit has been defined as a party-to-party exchange.

As a world-renowned stateswoman, Suu Kyi's visits to Western countries have been given high-profile receptions. There is no doubt that her visit to China will herald a great improvement of Sino-Myanmese relations.

Recent years have seen the Sino-Myanmese relationship disturbed by the disruption of China-backed investment projects, whose construction has been hindered by the Myanmese government due to various reasons. Myitsone power plant, for example, was suspended by the Myanmese President U Thein Sein in 2011.

Besides, some attributed the civil conflicts in Kokang region between the Myanmese army and local armed forces to China's support for ethnic forces. These have had a negative influence on bilateral ties.

Before the imminent Myanmese election later this year, China needs to open up a new dialogue with Myanmar, and it is reasonable that the CPC gets in touch with the largest opposition party of Myanmar on the basis of party-to-party exchange. This fits the CPC's long tradition of party diplomacy.

Suu Kyi used to be the most intense critic of the Myanmese junta, and she also raised objections to Chinese investment projects during that time. But since she was elected as a member of the House of Representatives, Suu Kyi has started to recalibrate her policy, stating on many occasions that she expects an improvement in Myanmar-China relations. In media interviews, Suu Kyi also expressed her expectation for a visit to China in an official capacity.

Suu Kyi's visit indicates that the Sino-Myanmese relationship will be reinforced in a wider spectrum. From Thura Shwe Mann, chairman of the Union Solidarity and Development Party and speaker of the House of Representatives, to Suu Kyi, China is about to initiate a multi-faceted diplomacy with Myanmar by sustaining government-to-government communication and at the same time deepening talks with opposition parties and non-governmental figures of Myanmar. The CPC's invitation of Suu Kyi means Beijing eyes further ties with Myanmar in the long-term perspective.

Given Suu Kyi's pragmatic and friendly attitude toward China, her overwhelming influence among the Myanmese and her significant power in the future landscape of the Myanmese politics, China treats her visit as a chance to lay out its diplomatic strategies, a forward-looking move to deal with the result of the upcoming Myanmese election.

This move is especially required because border security between Myanmar and China has been put in high risks after the Myanmese planes and artillery shells have crossed the border several times and inflicted casualties on Chinese civilians. To some extent, by inviting Suu Kyi to visit China, Beijing wants to caution the Myanmese government, especially its hawks, on this matter.

Be she elected as president or not, the influence of Suu Kyi and her NLD is too significant to be ignored. Her visit will not only give impetus to the NLD's efforts to revise the Myanmese constitution, but also advance China's interests in Myanmar and promote China's image among the public there.

The Sino-Myanmese relations are being rationally transformed, which is in line with the national interests of both sides. In this way, miscalculation and over-expectation can be avoided and both countries can adopt appropriate strategies. Hopefully, Suu Kyi's visit will pave a new path for the Sino-Myanmese relationship.

The author is a professor at the School of International Studies at Yunnan University.

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