China–Myanmar relations: What has been biggest issue between Myanmar and China?

by Hiten Ghosh
Myanmar China

China–Myanmar relations: ( 中缅关系; တရုတ်မြန်မာဆက်ဆံရေး ) refers to the international relations between the People’s Republic of China and Myanmar. China and Myanmar have active bilateral relations with each other. However, recently, there have been some problems in relations between China and Myanmar due to recent ongoing conflicts with ethnic Chinese insurgents and the Myanmar military near the border, as well as recent Burmese hostilities against China.

The two countries and peoples, as well as the official languages of the two countries, share a close relationship and the same linguistic link, with both Burmese and Chinese being parts of the Sino-Tibetan language family and peoples. The Yuan dynasty saw the first Mongol invasion of Burma and the second Mongol invasion of Burma. The Qing dynasty fought the Sino-Burmese War. A large number of Panthers from China settled in Myanmar. The Burma Road was built in China during World War II.

China-Myanmar Relations

Burma was the first non-communist country to recognize the communist-led People’s Republic of China after its establishment in 1949. Burma and the People’s Republic of China formally established diplomatic relations on 8 June 1950. China and Burma signed a treaty. Friendship and mutual non-aggression announced a joint declaration on June 29, 1954, officially basing their relations on five principles of peaceful coexistence. Relations with China were under the spirit of the word “pauk-phaw”, which means kinship in Burmese. However, Burma maintained a neutral foreign policy throughout the 1950s and 1960s. Anti-Chinese riots in 1967 and the expulsion of Chinese communities from Burma led to hostilities between the two countries.

Relations began to improve significantly in the 1970s. Under Deng Xiaoping’s rule, China reduced support for the Communist Party of Burma (“CPB”) and on August 5, 1988, China signed a major trade agreement, legalizing cross-border trade and considerable military aid. Started supply. Following the violent suppression of pro-democracy protests in 1988, the newly formed State Peace and Development Council, facing increasing international condemnation and pressure, sought to develop a closer relationship with China in order to strengthen itself; In turn, China’s influence grew rapidly after the international community abandoned Burma.

Commercial Relationship

Bilateral trade between China and Myanmar exceeds $1.4 billion. Chinese exports to Myanmar typically focus on oil, steel, and textile products, while Myanmar exports to China range from natural rubber to raw timber. China is providing extensive aid and helping develop industries and infrastructure in Myanmar and aims to be the main beneficiary from the cultivation of Myanmar’s extensive oil and natural gas reserves.

It is one of the main partners of the Burmese government in the project to renovate and expand the Sittwe port and has obtained the rights to develop and exploit natural gas reserves in the Arakan region. China has offered loans and credits to the military regime, as well as economic aid and investment for industrial projects, including the construction of dams, bridges, roads and ports.

China provided extensive assistance in building strategic roads along the Irrawaddy River trade route connecting Yunnan Province to the Bay of Bengal. Chinese firms are involved in the construction of oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380 km (1,480 mi) from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to China’s Yunnan province. China National Offshore Oil Corporation and China National Petroleum Corporation have entered into significant contracts to upgrade Burmese oil fields and refineries and share production.

PetroChina is in the process of building a major gas pipeline from the A-1 Shwe oil field off the coast of Rakhine state, leading to Yunnan, to access and exploit an estimated 2.88 to 3.56 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. A proposed Sino-Burmese oil pipeline on the west coast of Myanmar could allow China to import oil from the Middle East, bypassing the Strait of Malacca. Chinese oil projects have been opposed.

China Power Investment Corporation’s investment in the $3.6 billion Mytson Hydropower Station on the Irrawaddy River was halted in early October 2011 as the Burmese government suspended construction due to local residents’ concerns about human, and environmental impacts and perceived benefits. Most of the electricity generated would be exported to China’s Yunnan province and local residents claimed a lack of community feedback in the planning process.

The Chinese government is saying that Myanmar will get US$54 billion in tax revenue, shared benefits, and free electricity. China’s huge financial stake in the project is at stake and other big Chinese projects in the country are also at risk. The China Power Investment Corporation stated that only five villages out of a total of 2,146 needed to be relocated. The firm has provided two-storey houses, 21-inch TVs and one million Burmese to the affected villagers.

Human Rights Violations And Other Issues

Human rights violations due to land acquisition and industrial activities by Chinese companies. There have been several reports and complaints from local people regarding allegations of land violations, land grabbing and environmental damage. In 2010, about 8,000 acres of land was confiscated from residents to expand a Chinese-backed copper mining project.

In November 2012, peaceful villagers protesting the Letpadang Copper Mine were attacked by police and Chinese workers. In the attacks, the police used white phosphorus military weapons, resulting in burns and injuries to dozens of protesters, including monks. The protests were due to coercion and intimidation by the villagers into signing the contract, the contents of which they were not allowed to read and the misrepresentation of the essential terms of the contract by falsely promising the villagers that the land would be returned to them in three years. will be delivered, undamaged and in the same condition.

In 2015, Amnesty International found that a waste leak from the Letpadang Copper Mine had run into nearby farms, severely contaminating them. Describing the effects, a farmer interviewed by Amnesty International said, “Every crop was destroyed. Everything died. Everywhere where the water hit the crops were destroyed. They were destroyed continuously for about ten days. First, the crops withered.” Gone and then died.” Soil samples taken by Amnesty International were found to be contaminated with various metals, particularly arsenic, copper and lead.

In February 2018, about 800 villagers in Kachin state protested at the chief minister’s office against environmental damage caused by Chinese companies planting tissue culture bananas. In February 2019, two journalists were physically assaulted by employees of a Chinese joint venture company “Tha Khin Sit Mining Company” for a previously published article about local people in Kachin objecting to tissue-culture banana plantations went and were forcibly taken into custody.

A report by the human rights group Burma Campaign UK in December 2018 stated that Chinese companies make up the bulk of corporations named for involvement in human rights and environmental violations in Myanmar. In June 2020, Myanmar was one of 53 countries that supported Hong Kong’s national security law at the United Nations.

Human Trafficking

More than 7,000 Burmese women and girls are reported to have been sold into sexual slavery in China, where they are sold as “brides”. It has also been reported that women have at times been sold for the purpose of forced childbirth.

Strategic Relationship

China is the most important supplier of military aid and maintains extensive strategic and military cooperation. Since 1989, China has supplied Myanmar with jet fighters, armoured vehicles and naval ships, and trained Burmese army, air force and navy personnel. Access to Myanmar’s ports and naval installations gives China strategic influence in the Bay of Bengal, the wider Indian Ocean region, and Southeast Asia.

China has developed a deep water port at Kyukpyu in the Bay of Bengal. It has also built an 85-metre jetty, naval facilities and major reconnaissance and electronic intelligence systems on Great Coco Island, located 18 kilometres from India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands, giving China capabilities To monitor India’s military activities including missile tests.

Although the intelligence system built on the island is widely regarded as a myth today and the Indian military recently denied its existence, China assisted in building a naval base in Sittwe, East India’s largest island. A strategically important sea port nearby city and port, Kolkata. Beijing also funds the construction of a road linking Yangon and Sittwe, providing the shortest route from southern China to the Indian Ocean.

China and Russia once vetoed a UN Security Council resolution designed to punish Myanmar. In recent years, China has shown a lack of willingness to support the Burmese government and attempt to stabilize the political situation in Myanmar.

In recent years, Myanmar has moved to develop strategic and commercial ties with India, with which it shares a long land border and the Bay of Bengal. Increasing trade and military cooperation with India and developing bilateral ties with Japan and within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) reflect a shift in Myanmar’s foreign policy to avoid excessive dependence on China. However, as of 2018, India’s involvement in Myanmar was still limited in comparison to China’s political and economic influence in the country.

Following the Kokang incident in August 2009, which gained international media interest, some experts questioned its impact on China–Myanmar relations, which were considered strong. Bertil Lintner stated that Myanmar was prioritizing internal conflicts over its relations with China, although some Chinese analysts, such as Xi Yinhong, downplayed relations between Myanmar and China, saying “they are not great friends. Don’t listen to what they say China.” China has asked Myanmar to ensure the stability of the border area and protect the interests of its citizens in Myanmar. had requested. The Burmese Foreign Ministry later apologized to China over the incident, but also ran a story on the Dalai Lama in the state-run newspaper Myanmar Times, the first mention of him in state-controlled Burmese media for 20 years. Chinese officials were said to be “furious” and “extremely upset” at not being warned about the border attack.

In June 2015, the Kokang rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire, citing “strong calls from the Chinese government to restore peace in the Sino-Myanmar border region” among other interests. The announcement coincided with Aung San Suu Kyi’s meeting with Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, in Beijing. Following international condemnation of the Rohingya genocide, observers have noted that Myanmar has strengthened its ties with China.

In May 2018, China condemned the government of Myanmar after violence broke out in northern Myanmar. [citation needed] The violence was started by a China-backed militia, which was an insurgent against Myanmar. The militia, the Ta’aung National Liberation Army, sought greater autonomy from the Burmese central government. In October 2018, China-backed militias against Myanmar expelled several clergies in northern Myanmar, sparking outrage across Myanmar. Chinese-backed militias threatened residents of northern Myanmar to express their religious beliefs even inside their homes.

In August 2018, various international organizations noted a surprising increase in Chinese projects in Myanmar, which could lead to a ‘debt trap’ against Myanmar, in the same way, it was perceived as a debt trap against Sri Lanka. Despite these reports, the government of Myanmar continued Chinese loans and programs in November 2018, causing widespread public concern. In February 2019, Myanmar followed suit with more Chinese-sponsored loans and programs.

In July 2019, UN ambassadors from 50 countries, including Myanmar, signed a joint letter to the UNHRC defending China’s treatment of Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang region. In January 2020, Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in Nay Pyi Taw. Xi promoted practical cooperation under the One Belt One Road framework to achieve results as soon as possible and benefit the people of Myanmar.

2021 Military Coup

In February 2021, a coup d’état in Myanmar removed several democratically elected members of parliament from power, including State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. On 3 February, China and Russia blocked the UN Security Council from issuing a statement condemning the military, fearing additional economic sanctions. Although the PRC initially downplayed the military coup as “a major cabinet reshuffle”, it later expressed concern over the 12-month state of emergency declared by military leader Min Aung Hlaing, demanding the release of Aung San Suu Kyi. was done.

On 16 February 2021, in response to protesters outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon blaming China for the coup, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said that “the current development in Myanmar is not exactly what China wants to see”. Contrary to such statements, even during the Myanmar incidents, the junta allowed aircraft from China to land what they claimed to be seafood while forbidding any other foreign or local aircraft to land. did. He dismissed the claim that China supports military rule in Myanmar as a “ridiculous” rumour. Nonetheless, sugar factories in the country were set on fire as Burmese protesters did not trust China’s response, killing 39 people on 15 March; Later the Chinese embassy in Myanmar condemned the arson attacks but was ridiculed by protesters for not showing any sympathy for the protest movement.

In mid-March 2021, it became clear that Sino-Myanmar relations had severely deteriorated due to civil unrest and military rule threatening Chinese investments in the country. In another report, it was said that the Myanmar public is trying to improve relations with the United States through the employment of a former Israeli military intelligence officer. According to the source, Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar since 2016, had drawn too close to China for the generals’ liking. China has not supported military rule in Myanmar and has attempted to resolve the conflict peacefully without foreign interference. Despite these statements, China, along with Russia, has frequently vetoed any UN resolution condemning the growing brutality of the Burmese military junta for fear of additional sanctions that would harm the region economically. , which has economic interests in the vast country of China, being the second largest investor in Myanmar.

On May 3, 2021, China sent over 500,000 vaccines made by Chinese companies Sinovac and Sinopharm to Myanmar in order to combat the COVID-19 pandemic and to display friendship (Paukphaw). The vaccines were first approved by the WHO and play an important role in protecting all citizens of Myanmar from the deadly disease. represent a complete step. However, many Burmese protesters saw this as a sham and a clear sign of China’s open support for the military coup, further fueling anti-Chinese protests.

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