China maintains close contact with parties amid internal conflicts in Myanmar near border
Published: Jan 07, 2024 09:02 PM Updated: Jan 07, 2024 09:28 PM
China Myanmar Photo:VCG

China Myanmar Photo:VCG

China has maintained close communication with Myanmar over bilateral relations as well as the situation in northern Myanmar as conflicts on the Myanmar side of the China-Myanmar border region have caused injuries to several Chinese nationals. 

As a close neighbor of Myanmar, China hopes for peace and stability in Myanmar and is willing to mediate among the different parties, Chinese observers said on Sunday, but they acknowledged the length and complexity of Myanmar's internal conflicts could not be settled quickly, and that will have an impact on China-Myanmar cooperation.   

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong returned from a three-day visit to Myanmar from Thursday to Saturday, during which he met with Myanmar leader Min Aung Hlaing and held consultations with Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Myanmar U Lwin Oo. 

Both sides agreed to deepen the implementation of the common understandings reached between the leaders of the two countries, continue Belt and Road cooperation and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor with high quality, and accelerate the building of the China-Myanmar community with a shared future. 

The two sides will jointly maintain peace and stability across the China-Myanmar border, cooperate in combating cross-border crimes such as telecom fraud, and jointly promote regional peace, tranquility, development and prosperity. China reiterated its commitment to continuing to play a constructive role in supporting the peace process in northern Myanmar.

On Friday, Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Wang Xiaohong had a video call with Myanmar Union Minister for Home Affairs Lt-Gen Yar Pyae. China has always viewed and developed China-Myanmar relations from a strategic height, and is willing to work with Myanmar to comprehensively deepen cooperation in law enforcement and security, the Xinhua News Agency reported. 

Wang also expressed China's willingness to collaborate with Myanmar to crack down on telecom and online fraud, cooperate on key cases, maintain security and stability in border areas, and safeguard Chinese personnel and projects.

The recent interactions took place after an artillery shell crossed from Myanmar into a Chinese town in Southwest China's Yunnan Province on Wednesday, causing injuries. 

China has lodged serious démarches to relevant parties and once again asks all parties to the conflict to reach immediate cease-fire… China will take necessary measures to safeguard the lives and property of Chinese nationals, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Thursday.

The ongoing conflicts are Myanmar's internal affairs, but as a close neighbor, stability in Myanmar does facilitate the border security of China. Therefore China always hopes that conflicting parties in Myanmar will act with restraint and return to negotiations rather than armed conflict, analysts said. 

A Beijing-based expert on Myanmar studies told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that China-Myanmar border trade, personnel exchanges and cooperation projects in border areas had seen a positive momentum of resumption in 2023, but this was interrupted since the escalation of conflicts on October 27, 2023. 

Without a sustainable cease-fire and a stable situation, bilateral cooperation on trade, tourism and education, and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor would be a "castle in the sky," the expert said. 

China adheres to a principle of noninterference and hopes for Myanmar's peace and stability out of China's security concerns and development needs, Song Zhongping, a Chinese military expert and TV commentator, told the Global Times on Sunday, citing Chinese authorities' repeated calls for restraint of all parties and a cease-fire, and the China-brokered mediation of peace talks in December last year between Myanmar military and armed groups in Kunming, Yunnan Province. 

Why would China want a chaotic neighbor fighting an endless civil war? It is ridiculous to doubt China's stance or hype China's role in Myanmar, Song said. 

Analysts pointed out that it is the US-led West that has executed diplomacy highlighting so-called democratic value, exacerbating Myanmar's inter-party conflicts and narrowing down the chance of reconciliation, and imposed sanctions on Myanmar, aggravating its economic and social plight. 

Zhu Zhenming, a professor at the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, stressed that China upholds a noninterference stance on the issue and opposes certain forces in Myanmar which use China as an excuse to justify their agenda against the Myanmar military government. 

China's noninterference stance coexists with its firm determination, via cooperation with related parties in Myanmar on law enforcement, to crack down on telecom fraud and any other crimes that threaten the lives and property safety of Chinese people, observers said.  
Vehicle-mounted howitzers affiliated with the army of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command stand ready to fire during a three-day combat exercise on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border starting November 25, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

Vehicle-mounted howitzers affiliated with the army of the Chinese People's Liberation Army Southern Theater Command stand ready to fire during a three-day combat exercise on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border starting November 25, 2023. Photo: Screenshot from China Central Television

Complicated, uncertain future 

The northern Myanmar fighting has come to a pivotal moment on Thursday when the Three Brotherhood Alliance - comprising the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, or MNDAA, the Ta'ang National Liberation Army and the Arakan Army - reportedly took control of Laukkaing, capital of Kokang self-administered zone in the northern part of Shan state in Myanmar, which borders China, Reuters reported Saturday. 

The takeover is seen by some observers as a tipping point of the latest round of fighting since late October, yet it remains uncertain whether it will lead to a standoff or another round of fighting, the Beijing-based anonymous expert said. 

The strategic goals of the involved parties remain unclear and their strength comparison keeps changing, the expert said, predicting the situation would more likely develop into a "fight and talk" scenario. 

Song said that since independence, Myanmar has been struggling for ethnic reconciliation for decades but seen limited progress, and the issue is too deeply rooted and complicated to be settled in a quick manner. 

China will maintain "a constructive role in supporting the peace process in northern Myanmar" and strive to facilitate peace talks. It is hoped that the involved parties in Myanmar can prioritize the major picture and overall interests of the country, realizing reconciliation at an early date, Song said. 

It is also important to keep vigilant and take measures when necessary to ensure the safety of Chinese nationals and their properties in the border areas, as well as the security and economic interests of Chinese companies and projects in Myanmar, Song said.