Myanmar seeks resumption of infrastructure projects with China
Published: Dec 23, 2021 11:02 PM
A woman wearing a mask walks in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, Sept. 26, 2020. The number of COVID-19 infection cases in Myanmar reached 9,991 on Saturday night, said a release from the Health and Sports Ministry. According to the release, Myanmar reported 880 new confirmed cases and 24 more deaths on Saturday night. (Xinhua/U Aung)

A woman wearing a mask walks in downtown Yangon, Myanmar, September 26, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

The Myanmar government is looking to restart development and infrastructure projects with China, as well as accelerating bilateral economic and technical cooperation with its close neighbor, according to an announcement released by the Ministry of Information of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar on Tuesday.

The announcement said that Myanmar is willing to prioritize the implementation of projects involving China's development assistance of 3.8 billion yuan ($596 million), including infrastructure in environment, rural transportation and improved medical access.

According to the announcement, in recent months the country has achieved national stability and the public health situation has stabilized after receiving vaccines from China. Therefore, Myanmar is looking for further cooperation between the two countries.

A Myanmar-based senior executive of a state-owned company told the Global Times on Thursday that due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic and recent social unrest, some of the infrastructure projects that started earlier, including a bridge, are still under construction. However, all commercial projects like real estate development, electricity generation, mining and tourism have been halted.

"Due to the coronavirus epidemic, sanctions from the West and its delicate relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Myanmar wants to resume infrastructure projects with China to overcome its economic difficulties, as they are suited to the current needs of the country," Xu Liping, Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday.

Sources close to the matter told the Global Times that Myanmar will include the yuan in its official settlement currency for border trade with China with a targeted pilot settlement scheme set at around 2 billion yuan ($314 million).

According to the announcement, Myanmar's State Administration Council (SAC) has reviewed a list of 97 projects that were proposed by the previous government in late 2020 in response to the China's offer of 4 billion yuan ($627 million) in development assistance to Myanmar.

The SAC also reviewed 15 projects under a separate 200 million yuan ($31 million) grant from China, which will contribute to the success of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC). The CMEC, under the Belt and Road Initiative, includes road and rail infrastructure stretching 1,700 kilometers, from Kunming in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, through several regions in Myanmar to Kyaukpyu along the Bay of Bengal, a site of a proposed Special Economic Zone Deep Sea Project which is of special significance for economic cooperation between the two countries.

Xu noted that China welcomes the enhancement of cooperation between the two countries but the government should assess the investment risks in Myanmar. 

In March this year, some Chinese factories in Myanmar suffered attacks by perpetrators. Maung Ohn, Myanmar's minister of Information, said in the announcement that the country has achieved national stability and they are confident that the normalized situation will provide assurance to investors and lead to the improvement of bilateral cooperation with China.