CHINA-MYANMAR RELATIONS: AN ANALYSIS ABSTRACTMyanmar’sgeo-strategic location, as situated at the tri-junction of South Asia, SouthEast Asia and East Asia, enhances its strategic relevance to India. Myanmar issandwiched between the two most populous nations in the world China and India.China is emerging as the closest strategic partner of Myanmar. Myanmar isbecoming strategically significant for India also for strengthening itseconomic links with South East Asia: for acquiring energy resources and fromthe security point of view. The paperhad studied the mutual relations as Myanmar is gradually transforming itselftowards democracy and implications for region, especially, India. China’s policy towards Myanmar aims mainly atregaining the Myanmar people’s understanding and reconstructing China’spositive image towards the China needs to consideration all the variousparties- interests, improve public diplomacy, and increases political mutualtrust and broaden the foundation of win-win cooperation. INTRODUCTIONIn the terms of landarea, Myanmar is the second largest country in Association of South East AsianNations (ASEAN).
Myanmar have a rich resources a pride past and a strategiclocation that represents China, India and Southeast Asia in three directions.1 Myanmar shares common borders with fivecountries: Bangladesh 193km, China 2,185km, India 1463km, Laos 235km, andThailand 1800km. Myanmar shares the coastal waters of the Bay of Bengal and theAndaman Sea with Malaysia and Singapore. Myanmar’s geographical location givesitself to be the trade gateway that connects the different emerging economiesin Asia.2 As a coastal of the Indian Ocean,Myanmar’s strategic value further increases. Its 1930km long coastlinedominates the east arch of the Bay of Bengal, lean on to the Malacca strait.Thus Myanmar provides China the shortest land and sea way to South Asia, justas it provides useful external land and sea communication options to India’slandlocked northeast states. Myanmar’s sea boundaries are just 30km from theAndaman Islands increasing its maritime security potential.
3Myanmar’s given itsstrategic location connects the Bay of Bengal and East Asia. It has thebenefits of development form its neighbours and other multilateral factor. Physicalinfrastructure in Myanmar is extremely under-developed to aid economic growthefforts as planned by the government. With only 33,014 kilometers of coveredroads in place and 70% of the total population living in the country in therural areas, there is a high request for developing efficient transportation.At present, railway network covers 5,844 kilometers, and hopefully theSingapore-Kunming rail connection part of the Trans-Asian Railway project willtake some development of completion.4 China- Myanmar RelationsMyanmar was the firstnon-Communist country to recognize the People’s Republic of China founded in1949. In turns the China stood firmly together with Myanmar, even when itsformer military-run regime was separate by the international community. China-Myanmaris interlinked by its Geography, History, Ethnicity, Social development andEconomy.
The original Myanmar tribe came down from Tibet and put out the kingswho united the kingdom of Bama in the 12th century and became the dominantethnic group of modern Burma, now formally known as Myanmar. The two countriesshare a land border of more than 1,300 miles, populated largely by tribesliving on both sides of the border in Myanmar’s east Shan and Kachin States andin China’s southwestern Yunnan Province.5However, the situationimproved between 1971 and 1988 gradually strategic affairs. Since the militaryjunta took over in 1988. The power to do of the Tatmadaw, the Myanmar armedforces, has been greatly enhanced with the assistance of the China’s (PLA)People’s Liberation Army. The Chinese had supplied arms amounting of US$ 1 to 2billion in the early 1990s moved after another US$ 400 million worth of arms in1994. The People Liberation Army was also being agreement to go with thetraining of Myanmar military personnel. Seats were reserved for Tatmadawofficers in Chinese defense staff colleges.
There have also been increasingeconomic and diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. 6 A few months earlier, Myanmar leader AungSan Suu Kyi, after taking office as State Counselor, purposely made her firstofficer go to China, before being with the United States. The visit to China ishad belief to be a hard work to repair and strengthen bilateral ties betweenthe two nations that had once had a much closer relationship. The term “baobo”brothers and relatives were often used to make be moving in their closeness inyear back. In recent years, mutual ties have been strained especially duringthe recent transition period of Myanmar’s new government. This is likely to change for the better.7Myanmar is importantfor China as a trading outlet to the Indian Ocean for its landlocked inlandprovinces of Yunnan and Sichuan. Strategically, Myanmar is potentiallyimportant for China to achieve its long-term two ocean objective.
Furthermore,a China-Myanmar nexus is strategically useful for China to contain India’sinfluence in Southeast Asia. Finally, Myanmar is part and parcel of China’sgrand strategic design to achieve its goal of becoming a great power in the21st century.8 Theyear 1988 marked a significant change in Myanmar’s trade policy towards China.
The first sign of Rangon’s interest in promoting greater economic ties could beseen from the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) changed to StatePeace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997 announcement of legalizing bordertrade on 5 august 1988. Historically, China’sYunnan province which has a population of about 43 million was a Southwest SilkRoad trade route, linking Myanmar with Southwest Asia. It has now emerged as apotential target of China’s long term strategic ambition, transforming thewhole region as part of ‘quadrangle’ regional trade zone involving Yunnan,Myanmar, Thailand and Laos. This zone could become China’s land ridge to theIndian Ocean for its maritime trade. Especially, Yunnan could emerge as anintegrated part of the symbiotic relationship established by the State Law andOrder Restoration Council to seek economic and military aid from its giantneighbor.The two countriessigned an economic and technical cooperation agreement in which China agreed tooffer an interest free loan of rmb 50 million for the Rangoon Thanhyin rail androad bridge construction project In December 1989.
From 1961 to 1994, Beijing has given a totalRmb 500 million in aid to Rangoon and China had completed 18 out of 20 projectsfor Myanmar. According to a Taiwanese source, the increasingly closer economicties between the two countries could be seen from the sharp jump in the tradevolume between them. The total trade between China-Myanmar reached US$ 76.03millionwhich was eight times that of the previous year in 1988. The total value oftrade grew to US$ 767 in 1995.
China-Myanmar trade declined to US$ 576.49millionin 1998, but in the year 2000, the total trade increased to US$ 621.26million.9At the state level,with regard to infrastructure in Myanmar, China was the first to participate inmajor infrastructural reconstruction programmers in the country, as themodernization of Myanmar fell within the scope of its own strategic interests.
Several pacts, special agreements and reduced interest loans were concludedbetween the two countries, clearly without any details being communicated. Inthe year 1993 signed a joint agreements, yangon committed to buy 30,000 tonnesof rails and locomotives, as well as motorized vehicles from China and agreedto export wood to Yunnan in return for the construction of a hydroelectricpower station in the Chins State. In November 1998, another major agreement wassigned between the China International Trust and Investment Corporation (CITIC)and the Myanmar electric power enterprise for hardly the construction andoperation of a power station in thanphanseik. The necessary funds would be madeavailable through a loan granted by China import & export Bank. 10Sources with Ministryof Commerce said the bilateral trade between Myanmar and China hit over US$ 9.4billion in first ten months i.e.
April to January in 2015-16 fiscal year.During the period, Myanmar mainly exports oil and gas, agricultural products toChina. The imports from China include industrial products and commodities.According to official statistics, bilateral trade between China -Myanmaramounted to over US$ 10 billion in 2014-15 fiscal years. Of the total,Myanmar’s export to China hit US$ 4.
6 billion and its import from China reachedUS$ 5.6 billion. According to Myanmar official statistics, China’s investmentin Myanmar amounted to US$15.42 billion in 115 projects, accounting for 26.
07percent of the total as of December 2015 since Myanmar opened to suchinvestment in late 1988 and standing first in Myanmar’s foreign investmentline-up. 11China represents one ofthe fastest growing economies in the world. The bilateral trade between China-Myanmarcontinues to grow from both export and import perspectives. Total trade betweenthe two countries has been steadily increasing over the years and has more thandoubled between 2008 and 2015. China- Myanmar Bilateral Trade Year Import to Myanmar (USD10 000) Export to Myanmar (USD 10 000) Total Trade (USD 10 000) 2008 64755 197777 262532 2009 64613 225399 290012 2010 96655 347552 444207 2011 167990 482150 650140 2012 129823 567371 697194 2013 285687 733869 1019556 2014 1560128 936765 2496893 (Source: National Bureau of Statisticsof China) Major Development Cooperation ProjectsChinese companies arebuilding roads, dams and ports using low interest loans and export credit. China is building the Tasang Dam on theSalween River which will be integrated into the greater Mekong sub region powergrid. Since 1988, China has helped theMyanmar government build 8/9 sugar mills, 20 hydroelectric plants, 13/45 newfactories for the ministry of industry-1, and 12/21 new plans for the ministryof industry-2. Also China upgraded 6 factories for the ministry-2, provided 6 oceans–goingvessels, and built a dry dockyard in 2006.
Chinese firms built 7/11newhydroelectric plants.12The 1,420 MW Shweli I,II, III Cascade, in Shan State near the Chinese border, has also receivedsignificant Chinese support. Yunnan Machinery & Equipment Import Company (YMEC) began work on the Shweli I Hydropower Plant in February2004 and following Myanmar’s failure to secure funding, 26 joined with YunnanHuaneng Lancang River Hydropower Development Company and Yunnan Power Grid Companyto create the Yunnan Joint Power Development Company in August 2006.A few months later, YunnanJoint Power Development (YUPD) assumed an 80% share in the project aftercreating the Shweli River I Power Station Company together with Myanmar, turnedthe Shweli I dam into a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) project, and increased theinstalled capacity from 400 to 600 MW.In Kachin State,several Chinese MNCs are involved in the construction of seven large dams alongthe N’Mai Hka, Mali Hka, and Irrawaddy River, with a combined installedcapacity of 13,360 MW.
In 2007, China Power Investment corporation signedagreements with Myanmar’s authorities to finance all seven dams, as well aswith China Southern Power Grid Company, Yunnan Machinery & Equipment Import& Export Company signed with Myanmar’s Ministry of Electric Power in 2006.The 790 MW Yeywa Dam inMandalay Division, which began construction in 2006, is also being financed andconstructed by several Chinese MNCs, including China Gezhouba Group Company, Sinohydro,China International Trust and Investment Company, China National ElectricEquipment Company, China National Heavy Machinery Company, and Hunan SavooOversea Water and Electric Engineering Company. Additional financial backingfor the project is being provided by the China EXIM Bank.13China Power InvestmentCorporation’s investment in the US$ 3.6 billion Myitsone hydropower station onthe Irrawaddy River has hit a snagged in early October 2011 as Myanmar’s governmentsuspended construction due to local residents concern about the human,environmental impact and perceived benefits. Most of the power generated willbe exported to Yunnan province in China and local residents claimed the lack ofcommunity feedback in the planning process. China’s government is declaring Myanmarwill get US$ 54 billion in tax revenue, shared profits, and free electricity.At stake is China’s huge financial stake in the project and also risk to otherbig projects China has in the country.
China Power Investment Corporationstated only five villages with a total of 2,146 needed to displace. 14 Oil and Natural GasAlthough Myanmar isamong the world’s oldest oil-producing countries, Chinese oil and gas companiesdid not start their oil and gas exploration projects there until recently.Though Myanmar is not a major energy supplier to China, Chinese national oilcompanies and government have demonstrated increasing interest in thiscountry’s energy resources in recent years. China National PetroleumCorporation (CNPC), Sinopec and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC)have all started oil exploration projects and competed with other countriesincluding India and South Korea to secure access to new gas fields andpotential reserves of gas off the west coast. In November 2008, China NationalPetroleum Corporation and the Ministry of Energy Myanmar signed an agreement tobuild a US$ 2.3 billion crude oil pipeline and US$ 2 billion natural gaspipeline, and the construction started in October 2009.
This on-going China–Myanmarpipeline project comprises multiple separate projects, each with distinctcontracts ownership structures. The major components are a deep-water naturalgas development project and onshore gas terminal; an onshore natural gastransport pipeline and an onshore oil transport pipeline from western Myanmarto China. 15 TheNational League for Democracy’s Future China PolicyWhen they take officeat the end of March 2016, Aung San Suu Kyi and the National League forDemocracy will improve many problems with China from the current Thein Seingovernment.
The inauguration of the NLD government may also be an opportunityto start a new era in Myanmar’s relationship with China. The Thein Seingovernment has always had a public opinion problem, reducing from past militarydependence on China and friendly relation with Chinese companies, leading it tofeel compelled to satisfy to anti-China sentiment to gain popularity. Incomparison, it will operate from a position of strength domestically and willstart from a clean slate in relations with China. It will therefore be in abetter position to make policy decisions based on the objective merits ofspecific projects or issues related to China, allowing it to treat Chinarationally and pursue cooperation possibilities on a practical basis withoutemotional or historical baggage. It willsay yes to China’s requests, but when they do say no, it will be more likely tobe based on a fair and transparent judgment out of Myanmar’s national interestsrather than out of special conferred interests. SuuKyi’s early statements on China have indicated she will go in this direction inthe future. In an interview with the Chinese Xinhua News Agency after winningthe elections, she promised a friendly policy toward China, but emphasized thatChina’s investments should be designed to gain the trust of the Myanmar people.
She also reportedly praised China’s One Belt One Road initiative, expressingthe hope that it would benefit all sides. These messages have been welcomed inChina. After all, at this stage, China is no longer expecting preferentialtreatment from Myanmar but rather hopes to be treated fairly and equally.16 ConclusionThe relationshipbetween China-Myanmar today is one of the most important factors ininternational geo-politics and regional development. After independence, China-Myanmartensions deep as conflict and political confusion cleared both countries. Inrecent decades, ties have become closer due to social and political changes onboth sides of the Yunnan frontier. Under previous military governments inMyanmar, China becomes the largest foreign investor and dominatinginternational influence in the country. In the 21st century,the Beijing government has major ambitions for Myanmar and the trans-Asianregion for economic growth.
It hasbecome a source of tension in the South China Sea. During the past five years,on the Yunnan border Chinese interests have made some important policyadjustments to socio-political change in Myanmar .The Beijing government hasalso disclosed an ambitious “One Belt, One Road” vision linking China toEurasia and beyond. But there is still a long way to go before equitable andstable relations are established to the benefit of the peoples of both China-Myanmar. Progress will depend on political situations and economic relationsthat are the major interest of the people of Myanmar. Particularly, China-Myanmar relations in international standards of mutual respect, transparencyand social accountability can improve bilateral diplomacy, border security, andeconomic relations.
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