China Cautious To Save Its Investment In Myanmar: Report

After a military coup in Myanmar on February 1, China is again poised to be the “friend in need” it has always been in times of crisis for the country, reported Asia Times.

China has made huge investments in Myanmar.In order to save its investments, China took the stand of ‘understanding the coup’ in Myanmar while globally the act was derided and condemned.

Among the major projects that were on the table before the coup are a new railroad linking the Chinese border town of Ruili with Mandalay in Myanmar, and a China-financed deep-sea port at Kyaukpyu on the Bay of Bengal, which already also serves as a terminus for oil and gas pipelines that reach across Myanmar and flow into China’s southern Yunnan province, reported Asia Times.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin, at a news briefing on February 1 hours after Myanmar’s elected government members were detained, said Beijing “noted what has happened in Myanmar and are in the process of further understanding the situation.”

He then went on to say that “all sides in Myanmar” should “appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework” in order for “political and social stability to be maintained.”

Meanwhile, the US President Joe Biden’s administration quickly threatened to impose new punitive sanctions on Myanmar’s coup-makers.

Bertil Lintner, writing in an opinion piece in Asia Times viewed the Chinese move as a continuation of their support to the Myanmar military. China has already come to the defense of Myanmar’s coup-makers and will likely see its interests grow under the new era of military rule, he wrote.

China has been utilising the situation with utmost care to save its investments in Myanmar. Earlier also, China has helped Myanmar in its previous outrages, including the Rohingya refugee crisis that was condemned by the West. China had helped Myanmar after the Rohingya refugee crisis in 2016-2017, reported Asia Times.

At that time, Aung San Suu Kyi’s now-ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) was in power. Beijing had cozied up to her and her party before the coup because its policymakers and business groups found it easier to deal with them than the staunchly nationalistic military, known as the Tatmadaw, reported Asia Times.

Myanmar, under Suu Kyi, joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) when Suu Kyi attended a forum for International Cooperation in Beijing in May 2017. The two countries then signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly build the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) in 2018, aiming to further enhance bilateral cooperation within the BRI’s framework, reported Asia Times.

Lintner is of the view that China will not likely criticize Myanmar’s new military government, even if its new direction and policies dent somewhat its interests and ongoing projects in the country.

Even though Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of Myanmar’s defense forces and now national leader under the emergency rule is wary of Chinese hegemony in the Asia-Pacific region, recognizes that China is the only top foreign power he can rely on after his coup, Myanmar insiders say, reported Asia Times.

As per Lintner, Beijing will thus likely not risk even the mildest hiccup in its relations with strategically important Myanmar, the only neighbour that via the CMEC provides it with ready access to the Indian Ocean for trade and an alternative avenue for its fuel shipments from the Middle East that travel mainly through the strategically fraught Malacca Strait.

Moreover, Aung Hlaing latest move to appoint new Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin is a clear indication that he wants to move closer to China, said Lintner. Wunna Maung Lwin served as foreign minister from 2011 to 2016 under then-president Thein Sein.

He visited China several times over that period and was the first to vouch for Chinese “economic corridors” to be built through Myanmar. During a visit in August 2015 — before the NLD won its first election victory in November of that year — he was quoted in a Chinese Foreign Ministry bulletin saying that “Myanmar thanks China” for its humanitarian support and “Myanmar cherishes China as a friend in need,” reported Asia Times.

Indeed, he is known for his anti-Western and pro-Chinese stance. At one point he even told Thein Sein not to meet then-US president Barack Obama, insiders say, reported Asia Times.

Now Wunna Maung Lwin is back and his cordial relations with Chinese officials will likely prove pivotal as the West contemplates renewed sanctions and other punitive measures against the coup-makers. Hence, China is poised to benefit from the Myanmar military coup. (ANI)

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