As Aung San Suu Kyi heads for a landslide victory in Myanmar polls, a wary China, which for decades backed the military junta, is set to recalibrate its Myanmar policy to protect its strategic interests and billions of dollars of investments. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that China is confident that Myanmar will continue its friendly diplomacy towards Beijing despite the new order emerging in Nay Pyi Daw.
Wang’s remarks came after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party’s landslide triumph in the historic parliamentary polls. Wang told Myanmar Foreign Minister U Wunna Maung Lwin in Jinghong city of southwest China’s Yunnan province that as a good neighbour, China sincerely hopes to see a stable, harmonious, growing and united Myanmar, with various parties working together its development.
Myanmar’s Foreign Minister is in Jinghong to attend the first Lancang-Mekong River cooperation foreign ministers’ meeting. China apprehends that under Suu Kyi’s leadership, Myanmar may move closer to India, the US and western countries, marginalising Beijing’s strategic interests.
“A mutually beneficial friendship is in line with the fundamental interests of the two countries and the two peoples, Wang said, vowing that China will not change its friendly policy towards Myanmar,” state-run Xinhua news agency said. Wang stressed that China will continue to back the efforts to promote national reconciliation in Myanmar, calling on the two countries to jointly safeguard security in border areas apparently referring to recent skirmishes over the conflict between a rebel group of Chinese origin rebels and Myanmar military.
In June this year, China set aside its reservations and invited Suu Kyi to formally establish its links with her. In his meeting with her, Chinese President Xi Jinping asked her to take a long term view of Sino-Myanmar ties which faced turbulence after the fall of military junta and her release after 21 years of imprisonment. “China and Myanmar are close, friendly neighbours,” Xi had told Suu Kyi after her NLD party formally established a “new dialogue” with the ruling Communist of Party of China (CPC).
Elaborating on China’s stand in the new scenario, an article in the state-run Global Times said, “Some argue that Nay Pyi Taw, if the NLD wins, will be motivated to go closer with the West and its relationship with Beijing will face huge challenges”.
“However, this argument is not true for the status quo and the future of China-Myanmar relationship. Admittedly, while Myanmar took a pro-China stance when it was led by the junta, it has taken a neutral stance since U Thein Sein became president in 2011. “This, rather than a regression, is a return to the nation’s traditional neutral diplomatic strategies,” it said.
“The next Myanmar government, whoever in control, will establish closer ties with the West and meanwhile avoid distancing itself from China. Taking side with either the US or China will render Myanmar under huge risks of losing its just gained strategic space and resources,” it said.
“There is no reason for Myanmese political parties, including the NLD, to become so extreme. The next government should focus its efforts on realising economic prosperity and social development. In this regard, it is evident that the support from China will be helpful,” it said. “Currently, China is the largest trading partner and investor for Myanmar. The China-Myanmar trade volume in 2014 reached USD 25 billion, far greater than that between Myanmar and the US. The economic space for further cooperation is huge.”
“China can also provide more support to Myanmar in infrastructure, education, agriculture and so forth. There are a number of reasons to believe that the China-Myanmar relationship will see improvement in the future,” it said.