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China strengthens ties with Myanmar’s government despite international condemnation

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Trade and diplomatic ties between Myanmar and China are normalizing in the face of intense internal opposition and the international condemnation of the military junta that took power in February.

Beijing has strengthened relations with Myanmar’s military leaders despite a series of violent attacks against Chinese trade interests in the country after the government of Aung San Suu Kyi was overthrown.

Yun Sun, an expert on Myanmar-China relations with the Stimson Center, a U.S. think tank, said Beijing has already made a “fundamental assessment” that Myanmar was moving into another extended period of domination. military.

“I think the Chinese can see that this military coup is a success and it is here to stay,” he added.

The resumption of state-level commitments and economic activity signals that Myanmar is returning to its former state. traditional economic confidence on China. The country has used its larger neighbor as a buffer against international sanctions and divestment by foreign investors, who have announced plans to leave the country or shelved projects.

Following the coup, 875 people were killed by the junta and 6,242 arrested, according to the Association of Political Prisoners of Burma (Burma), a human rights group. The country’s economy and public services were severely disturbed by mass protests in the three months following the putch, and are only partially recovered.

The resumption of bilateral trade will fuel widespread suspicion among anti-coup resistance groups that China was ready to support the new military regime.

The cumulative value of China’s imports from Myanmar for the first five months of the year was $ 3.38 billion, up from $ 2.43 billion in 2020 and $ 2.56 billion in 2019, before of the coronavirus pandemic, according to official Chinese customs data.

However, exports to Myanmar for the same period did not recover to the same extent. At the end of May, goods valued at $ 4.28 billion had been shipped to Myanmar, compared to $ 4.56 billion and $ 4.79 billion in the previous two years.

In a further sign of strengthening diplomatic relations, Chen Hai, China’s ambassador to Myanmar, met in June with the coup leader and military commander Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, the capital. In a subsequent statement, Chen referred to Min Aung Hlaing as the head of Myanmar.

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China was among the countries that abstained in a UN general assembly vote last week inviting the international community to stops the flow of weapons in Myanmar and released Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

Beijing has had good relations with the government of the ousted leader, who is in detention in the face of several criminal charges. However, he refrained from criticizing the army, angering the mass protest movement that was born after the coup.

In addition to being Myanmar’s largest trading partner, China has as well strategic infrastructure investments in the country, including the energy pipelines that give Beijing a critical link with the Indian Ocean.

James Char, a Myanmar expert at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said many people in Myanmar still accused the Chinese government and business interests of complicity in supporting dozens of US governments. armed before the transition to democracy.

“The Chinese themselves are very clear [public sentiment in Myanmar]”, Said Char.

Attacks on companies linked to China after the coup culminated in an explosion at a Chinese-backed textile factory west of Yangon on June 11, according to reports from Myanmar’s local media, as well as controlled intelligence services. by the Chinese government and state media.

Beijing’s move to inflame Myanmar protesters is likely to slow down Chinese direct investment and the resumption of large-scale planned developments that were part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, analysts said.

More information from Sherry Fei Ju in Beijing


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