Celebrating 70th anniversary with big investments . . .
Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Myanmar yesterday for his two-day state visit. The visit marks the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, bringing massive infrastructure deals to deepen their economic ties. Xi’s trip also happened at a sensitive time. Both countries have recently been accused of human rights abuses involving their Muslim minorities – the Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province and the Rohingyas from Myanmar’s Rakhine State. The UN’s top court is expected to rule on the Rohingya genocide case on January 23.
Beijing’s strategic presence in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean . . .
The highlight of Xi’s visit was the China-led US$1.3-billion Kyaukphyu port project, a deep-sea port located in Rakhine state. Upon completion, the port will serve as an additional link for China to access oil and gas supplies from the Middle East, and is considered to be Beijing’s gateway to the Indian Ocean. The port is also linked to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, which involves highways and oil and gas pipelines that connect to China’s Yunnan province. Combined, these infrastructure projects will serve as key nodes in China’s Belt and Road Initiative in the region.
Strong ‘friendship’ between the two countries . . .
For China, Myanmar has been an important partner for its geopolitical ambitions in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. China will also be seeking Myanmar’s endorsement in its South China Sea disputes with many ASEAN countries, including Vietnam and the Philippines. For Myanmar, China has been a consistent ally at the UN as Yangon remains under heavy criticism from Western countries over human rights issues. Economically, China has surpassed Thailand as Myanmar’s largest trade and investment partner. In 2018, Myanmar’s trade with China reached C$15.7 billion, accounting for one-third of its total trade.
- The Diplomat: Xi Jinping Kicks off Myanmar State Visit
- South China Morning Post: China turns to Myanmar as the ‘friendly giant in the neighbourhood’
- Al Jazeera: China's Xi makes a 'historic' visit to Myanmar