China ‘notes’ Myanmar coup, hopes for stability


By Reuters Staff

FEBRUARY 1, 20214:10 PMUPDATED 15 HOURS AGO

BEIJING (Reuters) – China said on Monday it had “noted” the military coup in Myanmar and hoped that all sides could properly manage their differences under the constitution and uphold stability.

“We have noted what has happened in Myanmar and are in the process of further understanding the situation,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a daily news briefing in Beijing.

“China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar’s. We hope that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately handle their differences under the constitution and legal framework and safeguard political and social stability,” he added.

Last month the Chinese government’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, met military chief Min Aung Hlaing, who has now assumed power, during a visit to Myanmar.

Asked whether Myanmar had hinted there could be a coup during Wang Yi’s visit, or whether China would condemn the coup, spokesman Wang reiterated his previous statement.

China has long played an important role in the former Burma, standing by the country during its previous time as a military dictatorship, but also working closely with Aung San Suu Kyi when she became leader.

Nobel laureate Suu Kyi has been detained along with other leaders of her National League for Democracy (NLD) party in early morning raids.

China has strategic economic interests in Myanmar, with major oil and gas pipelines running through the country.

China is also pushing the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a network – some of it existing and some planned – of transport and other projects passing through areas where ethnic minority factions often battle each other and government forces.

Fighting in northeastern Myanmar sometimes sends refugees fleeing over the border into China, to Beijing’s anger.

Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Kim Coghill and Philippa Fletcher

Source: Reuters “China ‘notes’ Myanmar coup, hopes for stability”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


China’s Efforts to Solve Rohingya Issue Not Geopolitical but Humanitarian


Myanmar has been isolated due to Rohingya Issue and wants China to help it resolve the issue. In geopolitical viewpoint, Myanmar’s isolation facilitates China’s geopolitical control of the country. Why has China made great efforts to help Myanmar resolve the issue to put an end to such isolation?

Reuters’ article “China struggles in new diplomatic role, trying to return Rohingya to Myanmar” shows Western media’s utter misunderstanding of China. Having lifted itself out of poverty, China as a socialist country focusing on bringing benefits to people certainly wants to help others lift out of poverty.

That is why China provides material and financial aids to resolve the issue to benefit Rohingya people. It proves China’s humanitarian instead of geopolitical intent.

Reuters’ article regards China’s efforts as “departure from its official policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries” but it proves precisely the contrary with its narration.

China only provides humanitarian aids to Myanmar to solve the issue, but the issue involves the political issues of citizenship, etc. that have to be dealt with by Myanmar. According to the article, China has failed to resolve Rohingya issue due to those political issues. It precisely proves that China refrains from interfere with Myanmar’s internal affairs.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-rohingya-china-insight-idUSKBN1ZJ0SY


China’s Xi Ensures Bypassing Malacca Strait


I have mentioned in my post “US Helpless as China Has Turned South China Sea into Its Lake” yesterday that with the deployment of J-20 for air supremacy and the construction of artificial islands, China has turned the South China Sea into its lake. The US is simply unable to win a war by direct attack at Chinese homeland.

However, powerful US military is still able to cut China’s trade lifelines though the oceans controlled by powerful US Navy. The trade lifelines through the Indian Ocean is especially vital for Chinese economy especially the imports of oil and gas from the Middle East and China’s shipping to EU, Middle East and Africa through Indian Ocean.

For security of China’s trade lifelines China has first to bypass the Malacca Strait, which can easily be blocked by US troops stationed in Singapore.

To do so, China has three alternatives, the best is to build a canal through Kra Isthmus (Kra Canal), which will shorten shipping route by 2,000 km for China, Japan and South Korea. However, as France, UK and USA all have to finally waive their ownership of Suez and Panama Canals, China certainly knows that it cannot own Kra Canal even if its construction is entirely funded by China. Build a canal all with its own funds to benefit not only itself but also Japan, South Korea, etc. is not a good idea. Moreover, Thai politics are not stable enough to ensure secure use of the canal.

Another alternative is a pan-Asian railway through Laos, Thailand and Malaysia to the west coast of Malaysia. China is building sections of the railway in Laos (China-Laos Railway) and Malaysia (East Coast Rail Link), but the construction of the section through Thailand has not been ensured. Moreover, there will certainly be political risks and diplomatic difficulties for a route through three foreign countries.

Therefore, the third and practically best alternative is the construction of a port at Kyaukpyu, Myanmar and a railway between Kyaukpyu and China’s Ruili.

This shortcut to bypass the Malacca Strait is much simpler as it goes through only one foreign country Myanmar, which is now politically stable and has close ties with China due to Western pressure on it over the Rohingya issue.

Reuters’ article “Myanmar, China ink deals to accelerate Belt and Road as Xi courts an isolated Suu Kyi” on January 18 says China and Myanmar signed 33 deals during Chinese President’s recent visit to Myanmar.

Among the deals are the projects of a deep sea-port in Kyaukpyu China has been building and a railway linking the port with China. Xi has thus ensured Southwest China’s trade route to bypass the Malacca Strait. That will be a major section of China’s 21sta century maritime Silk Road, the Road in China’s Belt and Road.

Reuters says that China is courting Myanmar, but from the video footage about Myanmar people’s enthusiasm in welcoming Xi, we see Myanmar is courting China for win-win cooperation with China to lift them out of poverty. China is courting Myanmar with its Chinese model of lifting people out of poverty and improving people’s living standard. That model has much greater impact than Rohingya issue. It is the major factor that enable the success of China’s BRI in Central Asia, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, etc.

Another major section of the maritime Silk Road is the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that links Northwest China with the Middle East and Africa.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ article, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-myanmar-china/myanmar-china-ink-deals-to-accelerate-belt-and-road-as-xi-courts-an-isolated-suu-kyi-idUSKBN1ZH054


Japan and Myanmar’s Toxic Friendship


Japan’s appeasement policy toward Myanmar, driven by geopolitics and disregard for human rights, is supporting the Rohingya genocide.

By Yuzuki Nagakoshi

January 15, 2020

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, shakes hands with Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi prior to the Japan-Mekong Summit Meeting at the Akasaka Palace State Guest House in Tokyo, Oct. 9, 2018.
Credit: Frank Robichon/Pool Photo via AP

Myanmar offered the starving Japanese people affordable rice in the early 1950s, when Japan was struggling to recover from World War II. Japan is paying the people back by supporting Myanmar’s apartheid regime against the Rohingya.

The 2016-17 violence that bore the hallmarks of genocide was only a tip of the iceberg of the Myanmar government’s longstanding discriminatory policies. Marzuki Darusman, the head of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, stated in October 2019 that Myanmar is still failing to prevent, investigate, and effectively criminalize genocide. The threat of extreme violence recurring is real. Myanmar has perpetrated rounds of violence since the 1970s, and the international community failed to protect the Rohingya every time.

In the International Court of Justice proceedings that The Gambia brought against Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi denied the allegations that genocide is ongoing in her country. She portrayed the situation as an armed conflict, counterinsurgency, counterterrorism operations, and intercommunal violence, without any genocidal intent involved. Apart from the time she referred to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, she never used the word “Rohingya” in her speech — following the official policy of her government, which claims that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and not native to Myanmar. That the Rohingya are illegal immigrants is a fully debunked yet common misbelief among people in Myanmar and such a notion underlies the disenfranchisement and persecution of the Rohingya.

Despite the United Nation’s repeated calls for vigilance toward the situation in Myanmar and Myanmar’s wholesale denial of genocide, Japan has been appeasing the country. Japan was the first country to support Myanmar in the ICJ case. The Japanese ambassador to Myanmar, Ichiro Maruyama, stated in a press conference in Yangon on December 26 that “his government firmly believes that no genocide was committed in the country” and prays and hopes that the “ICJ will not issue a ruling for provisional measures” against Myanmar. If the ICJ issues such measures, he says, “Japan will look at ways to help Myanmar handle the process smoothly.” As the country most affected by the mass influx of Rohingya refugees who cross the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Bangladesh protested against Japan’s position.

Another symbolic episode that shows Japan’s utter disregard for Rohingya human rights happened in mid-August. In an interview with BBC Burma published on August 19, Maruyama referred to the Rohingya as “Bengali” – a derogatory term that falsely indicates that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Myanmar is in the process of transformation, hopefully from a totalitarian country ruled by the military into a democratic country governed by civilians in a way that is compliant with the rule of law. Democracy, rule of law, and civilian government are some of the core aspects that define good governance. But democratization increases the stake of the answer to the problem of who gets to be included in the political decision-making process. Therefore, democratization could lead to increased racial tensions and the othering of ethnic minorities so as to exclude them from the political process.

According to a survey by the Japanese foreign ministry, the Myanmar people perceived Japan to be the country’s most important partner and the most trustworthy country. Japan has, however, abused the Myanmar people’s trust and sabotaged international cooperation in pressuring the civilian government and the Myanmar military to correct its wrongs – all based on Tokyo’s shortsighted view of geopolitical and economic interest. Japan’s attempt to augment its international presence must be accompanied by an enhanced sense of responsibility as the guardian and promoter for fundamental human rights.

Japan’s Geopolitical Interest in Asia’s Last Frontier

The friendship between Japan and Myanmar is driven strongly by Japanese geopolitical interests. Fierce competition exists between the Asian economic giants – mainly Japan and China – over Asia’s “last frontier,” Myanmar. Japan has been offering Myanmar assistance to distance Naypyitaw from Beijing. Rakhine state is one of the forefronts of such competition. Beijing is working toward building a deep-water port in Rakhine state, where the violence against the Rohingya is ongoing. Tokyo supported the Rakhine State Investment Fair in February 2019 to encourage investment in the state.

Ostensibly, the Japanese policy of noninterference with the genocide is based on respect for Myanmar’s policy choices and meant to support Myanmar through its development process. Japan has been an important economic partner of Myanmar: It is Myanmar’s sixth-largest direct investor, the third-largest importer of Myanmar products, and the seventh-largest exporter to Myanmar. Moreover, Japan has not imposed any sanctions against Myanmar military officials or any trade restrictions against Myanmar, calling calls for sanctions an “utter nonsense.” In fluent Burmese, the Japanese ambassador said that Japan always wants to be a “good friend” of Myanmar and therefore supports Myanmar’s economic and political development by maintaining relationships rather than imposing sanctions.

The Japanese Government’s Contribution to the Rohingya Genocide

In the name of its geopolitical interests, Japan has been contributing to the Rohingya genocide in a number of ways.

First, Tokyo has failed to even acknowledge the Rohingya as an ethnic minority. The Japanese government refers to the Rohingya as “the Muslims in Rakhine,” “Rohingya (Bangladeshi Muslims),” or “Muslims” (as opposed to “Rakhine Buddhists”). The purpose of refusing to call the Rohingya by the names they use to identify themselves is to remain “neutral” in the matter, according to then-Foreign Minister Taro Konno, who offered his opinion in a blog post in March 2018. Japanese Ambassador Maruyama’s use of the derogatory term “Bengali” was not an anomaly or a mistake — it reflected a longstanding Japanese policy to turn a blind eye to the Myanmar government’s apartheid policy and genocide.

Japan has also opposed the establishment of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission and supported Myanmar in creating their own fact-finding mission, reportedly to maintain its access to the large Myanmar market. Japan sent a former U.N. under-secretary general to serve Myanmar’s own Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE), which was cited by Aung San Suu Kyi in her opening statement at the ICJ as evidence of an existence of a functioning mechanism to hold soldiers or officers accountable for possible war crimes. The ICOE, however, is not a mechanism to hold anyone accountable. In fact, its chairperson openly stated that finger pointing, blaming, or saying “you’re accountable” is a bad approach to solving the problem. Supporting such a mechanism is only helping Myanmar in escaping its accountability.

Japan’s ambivalent approach was on display when a Japanese beverage company was called out by Amnesty International for its Myanmar subsidiary making a donation to the Tatmadaw during a public donation ceremony in the midst of reports of the violence against the Rohingya. The company made three donations totaling $30,000 between September and October 2017. The Japanese company has 55 percent ownership of the subsidiary, Myanmar Brewery, and had been involved in making donation decisions through the managing director on placement from the Japanese parent company.

The Japanese company reviewed its subsidiaries’ donations policy in response to the crisis and updated their charitable donations and volunteering policy. Under the new policy, beneficiaries must be clearly identified, and the recipient organization must be politically neutral and work for all members of the community. The use of the donated funds must be recorded and shared with the subsidiary upon request.

However, such measures are insufficient as means for compensating for the harm that the unethical and likely illegal conduct caused and holding people who made the decision accountable. The use of funding donated during the 2017 mass violence has not been identified, and no reports exist as to how the parent or subsidiary took responsibility for this donation.

Such conduct may even trigger international criminal liability, as Chris Sidoti of the U.N. Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar has stated. Companies are immune from criminal prosecution under the International Criminal Court Statute, but its leaders are not. By donating money to the Tatmadaw during the 2017 violence, foreign companies aided and abetted the crimes of forced deportation, persecution, or even genocide through providing the means for the its commission.

By failing to take action against Japanese parent companies of Myanmar subsidiaries that donated money to the Tatmadaw amidst reports of ongoing genocide, the Japanese government may be violating its international obligations. Japan is not party to the genocide convention (ostensibly because there is the prohibition of incitement of genocide under the Convention is incompatible with the freedom of expression guaranteed under the Japanese Constitution and revisions of domestic law might become necessary), but the duty to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators forms part of customary international law, from which states cannot derogate.

The Question of Sanctions

Japan has opposed economic sanctions, saying that such a “drastic” response would only “fuel the situation.” However, the failure in taking any measures seems to stem from Japan’s economic interest. The Japanese government reportedly sees the other countries’ economic sanctions as a chance to better Japanese companies’ competitiveness in the Myanmar market.

Indeed, Japan is actively involved in the development of resource-rich Rakhine state, where the Rohingya have been confined in “open-air prisons” for the crime of being Rohingya. Over a million Rohingya have been gruesomely expelled from the state. In February 2019, the Japanese embassy to Myanmar and the Japan International Cooperation Agency co-hosted the Rakhine State Investment Fair in the state, amid land grabs from the Rohingya to make space for foreign and domestic investors.

It may be true as a general statement, as some suggest, that broad economic sanctions would only punish the poor who rely on export-related industries and would push Myanmar to be more dependent on China. If that happens, Myanmar would be less vulnerable to international sanctions and criticisms. However, not participating in or opposing targeted sanctions would send the wrong message that Myanmar’s persecution of the Rohingya is permissible or that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to these gross human rights violations.

In October 2019, Japan’s Ministry of Defense officially invited Min Aung Hlaing, the highest-ranked Myanmar military official who bears the “greatest responsibility” for the international crimes in Rakhine state, according to the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar. He is on the U.S. sanctions list. His Twitter account, which features tweets referring to the Rohingya as Bengali and denying the occurrence of atrocities, was suspended for hate speech.

Despite his expressed disregard for fundamental human rights and leading role in the Rohingya genocide, Min Aung Hlaing received a warm welcome from the Japanese government. He met Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who expressed his appreciation of Min Aung Hlaing’s tolerance in dealing with the Rakhine situation. Abe further urged him to take leadership in taking appropriate measures according to Myanmar’s ICOE. To expect the alleged commander of genocide to effectively deal with his own crime is preposterous.

Instead, to start with, Japan can join the United States and EU in imposing sanctions in a more targeted way, for example, by targeting senior military officials. Furthermore, Japan can also join in sanctions on companies that are related to the military, as identified by the UN Independent Fact-Finding Mission. Just because broad economic sanctions may have negative side effects to civilians does not mean that Japan should not take targeted measures against the military or at least cease active support toward military officials who are suspected of committing grave international crimes.

Supporting Myanmar in Its Transition to an Inclusive Democracy

It is mere wishful thinking that the Myanmar government or military would automatically change course and become more inclusive and less oppressive as Myanmar economically develops and becomes more democratic. Democratization without accompanying protection for minorities may make matters worse; democracy, at its core, is a way of governing where the majority prevails. Some observe that “democratization processes in themselves can lead to a period of collective violence,” often linked to inter-racial conflict.

Violence not only harms the Rohingya and other persecuted ethnic minorities. Extreme violence by command may scar the direct perpetrators, who may have ethical objections to such commands but nevertheless be coerced into action. The author has personally heard from former military trainees that the Tatmadaw has been engaging in extrajudicial execution of its own soldiers when they do not obey their superiors’ command to engage in unlawful violence.

So far, for Japan being good friends seems to mean letting Myanmar’s egregious violence and other gross human rights violations slide as internal policy decisions that foreign powers should stay away from. Giving developing countries space to grow and allow some lapse in judgment may be a sound international aid policy as a general principle. But the human rights violations committed against the Rohingya are so gruesome that every government should oppose and act against them. Japan should lead Myanmar into a path of stable democracy and respect for human rights — because that is what a true friend would do.

Yuzuki Nagakoshi, Ph.D. is an international and comparative law scholar based in Arusha, Tanzania. Her current research areas are international human rights law and international criminal law. Recent works include “Repatriated to ‘Prison’: Landgrabbing as a tool of segregation in Myanmar.”

Source: The Diplomat “Japan and Myanmar’s Toxic Friendship”

Note: This is The Diplomat’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


China sees Myanmar as stepping stone to Indian Ocean, energy security


Chinese President Xi Jinping will begin a two-day trip to Southeast Asian nation on Friday with hopes high he can help finalise details of a US$1.3 billion deal to develop Kyaukpyu port

But China’s growing presence in Indian Ocean is fuelling concerns in New Delhi

Laura Zhou

Published: 5:18pm, 15 Jan, 2020

Updated: 7:26pm, 15 Jan, 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s upcoming trip to Myanmar is expected to help Beijing boost its presence in the Indian Ocean, especially if a deal can be finalised on the development of the China-funded Kyaukpyu port.

China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, said on Sunday that Xi was expected to oversee the signing of several deals during a two-day visit that starts on Friday, including possibly putting the final piece of the puzzle in the US$1.3 billion port deal, negotiations for which have been going on for several years.

Once completed, the facility on the Bay of Bengal will provide Beijing with a direct link to oil supplies from the Middle East, as Kyaukpyu is at one end of a massive oil and natural gas pipeline network that runs all the way to Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province. (underlined by this reblogger)

That direct link will provide an alternative route for China’s energy imports avoiding the Malacca Strait, which links the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea but has become a flashpoint for Sino-Indian maritime rivalry.

Kyaukpyu is at one end of a massive oil and natural gas pipeline network that runs all the way to Kunming in southwest China’s Yunnan province. Photo: AFP

The development of Kyaukpyu is part of Beijing’s wider plan to expand its footprint in South Asia, which has seen it invest heavily in Indian Ocean ports through its Belt and Road Initiative, much to the concern of New Delhi.

Archana Atmakuri, a research analyst at the National University of Singapore, said Beijing had a clear ambition in the region.

The port development projects, be they in Gwadar in Pakistan, Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Kyaukphyu in Myanmar or Chittagong in Bangladesh, are all happening in India’s backyard, and this feeds into China’s encirclement strategy towards India,” she said.

In 2015, a consortium led by Chinese state-owned Citic won the bid to develop the port in central Rakhine state at an estimated cost of US$7 billion. However, in 2018, the National League for Democracy – Myanmar’s ruling party – slashed the budget to US$1.3 billion amid concerns it would be unable to service the debt.

Xi’s visit comes amid growing rivalry between the world’s two most populous nations in South Asia and the Indian Ocean, an area that Delhi regards as its backyard.

Why the Andaman Sea is China and India’s new maritime flashpoint

Besides funding port projects in Hambantota and Gwadar, Beijing last month gifted two Type 053 frigates to Bangladesh, after giving a similar vessel to the Sri Lankan navy in June.

India will have a close eye on the visit,” Sampa Kundu, an assistant professor at Amity University in Uttar Pradesh, India, said.

But New Delhi has its own approach towards Myanmar.”

Atmakuri agreed, saying that under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India had made more effort to cultivate ties with its Asian neighbours, such as working with Japan on a container terminal in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo and supporting the development of the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport project that is designed to connect the east Indian port of Kolkata to Sittwe port in Rakhine.

Xi Jinping is expected to meet Myanmar’s military chief General Min Aung Hlaing during his visit. Photo: AFP

Jabin Jacob, an associate professor at Shiv Nadar University in India, said tensions between Delhi and Beijing were likely to grow in the region.

Despite its limited resources, India’s navy is operationally superior to the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean but the latter’s ability for grey zone operations and military diplomacy in the region suggests the balance is likely to shift in China’s favour,” he said.

Atmakuri said that as competition between the two nations intensified, concerns were growing among smaller countries that they might be forced to pick sides.

The question to ask is how small and middle powers react to this,” she said, “I think countries are preparing for the competition in the Indian Ocean.”

Xi will be the first Chinese president to visit Myanmar since 2001. During his trip he is expected to meet government leaders, including Aung San Suu Kyi, and military chief General Min Aung Hlaing.

Source: SCMP “China sees Myanmar as stepping stone to Indian Ocean, energy security”

Note: This is National Interest’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


High expectations for Xi Jinping’s visit to mark 70th anniversary of China-Myanmar relations


Two-day trip could be ‘milestone’ for relations if progress on Rohingya refugee crisis and stalled US$3.6 billion Myitsone dam project can be made

Xi’s visit could involve ‘dozens’ of cultural, political and economic agreements

Keegan Elmer

Published: 7:37pm, 13 Jan, 2020

Updated: 11:27pm, 13 Jan, 2020

Chinese President Xi Jinping will try to kick-start stalled Belt and Road Initiative projects and attempt to mediate in the Rohingya crisis during a two-day visit to Myanmar this week to mark the 70th anniversary of relations between the nations, analysts said.

Ties between Myanmar and China – its biggest trading partner – have strengthened rapidly in recent years, although violent conflicts and one of the world’s largest refugee emergencies pose major challenges to Beijing’s goals in the Southeast Asian country.

Xi’s visit is expected to begin on Friday, the first by a Chinese leader since Jiang Zemin 19 years ago, and may be a “milestone” for bilateral ties, according to Beijing’s senior envoy in Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s capital.

Xi would meet the country’s senior military and political leaders, and the two sides were expected to sign “dozens” of agreements in culture, politics and the economy, state newspaper Global Times quoted Chen Hai, China’s ambassador, as saying on Sunday.

He said Xi would meet President Win Myint and attend a banquet hosted by State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s de facto political leader since 2016 and head of the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD).

Xi will also meet Min Aung Hlaing, commander of Myanmar’s armed forces and still a powerful political player following the country’s transition to democracy from military government in 2015.

The visit is expected to touch on topics such as long-stalled investment projects including the Myitsone dam, and Myanmar’s border crisis with Bangladesh.

Dr Renaud Egreteau, of the department of Asian and international studies at City University of Hong Kong, said that the trip would be a major diplomatic move by China’s leader.

President Xi certainly seems to want reassurance from Myanmar that under the NLD, the country will continue to adhere to its commitment to engage in an array of belt and road projects – some having lingered for more than a decade,” Egreteau said.

On Friday, Suu Kyi made a rare visit to northern Kachin state, which borders China and where the US$3.6 billion Beijing-funded Myitsone dam project has been idle since 2011 after residents protested about having to abandon homes, land and farms.

At a meeting to announce Xi’s trip to Myanmar, foreign vice-minister Luo Zhaohui said China and Myanmar were “still maintaining close communication” on the dam.

The northwestern state of Rakhine, a region of armed conflict and the heart of the Rohingya refugee crisis, will also figure in Xi’s visit.

An oil pipeline to Kunming in China’s southern Yunnan province and a seaport on the Indian Ocean are two belt and road infrastructure projects in Rakhine, where Myanmar’s military and thousands of ethnic Rakhine rebels clash.

Listing priorities for cooperation with Myanmar, Chen said China would “help Myanmar and Bangladesh resolve the Rakhine issue through negotiations”.

The biggest issues aren’t between China and Myanmar, but between Myanmar and Bangladesh,” said Wang Dehua, researcher at the Chinese Association for South Asian Studies, referring to the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have sought shelter in Bangladesh. “China will try to mediate, this is clear,” he said.

But China has been the only major world power to support Myanmar’s handling of the crisis which has brought strong international criticism down on Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi.

Half a million minority Rohingya Muslims fled after Myanmar military attacks in 2017, which United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein called “textbook ethnic cleansing”.

I think there are numerous expectations for Xi’s visit, but there is also trepidation that the high-level visit is predicated on China cashing in on its diplomatic support for Myanmar over the Rakhine crisis, and unsticking stalled CMEC [China Myanmar Economic Corridor] projects,” said David Mathieson, an analyst based in Yangon.

The Western opprobrium heaped on Myanmar was not mired by China, who balanced its strategic interests with shoring up support for the NLD government, and now it’s time for China to use that support to get its trade and infrastructure projects moving faster.”

Source: SCMP “High expectations for Xi Jinping’s visit to mark 70th anniversary of China-Myanmar relations”

Note: This is SCMP’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Chinese money, US human rights: in Myanmar’s Kachin State, a delicate balance


Far from the front lines of the US-China trade war, the resource-rich Kachin is the scene of a familiar struggle for influence between the two superpowers

China has invested heavily, but for some locals development has come at a cost

Emily Fishbein

Published: 2:00pm, 12 Jan, 2020

Updated: 10:24pm, 12 Jan, 2020

While the US-China trade war plays to the audience on the global stage, behind the scenes the two superpowers are engaged in a unique tug of war for influence in one of the world’s more remote corners.

Myitkyina, the capital of Myanmar’s Kachin State about 1,200km north of Yangon, rarely features on tourist bucket lists. Despite its verdant scenery and dynamic culture and traditions, it suffers from high rates of poverty and drug addiction, and has been the scene of a conflict between the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar military which has displaced an estimated 100,000 people since a 17-year ceasefire collapsed in 2011.

Yet recently not one, but two high-profile visitors arrived in the space of just days.

US Ambassador to Myanmar Scot Marciel and a delegation from the US Embassy held a Myitkyina Road Show in November that included a jobs and opportunities fair, a workshop with the agricultural sector, and a meeting with veterans who fought alongside US troops in World War II. Marciel said the embassy wanted to work with the Kachin people “in support of freedom, democracy, human rights and economic progress”, and that the US was “committed to implementing development programmes in an open, transparent manner … to listen and learn”.

Just days later, the Chinese Embassy held its own visit, filming scenes later posted on Facebook of Ambassador Chen Hai handing out items including laptops, rice and cooking oil emblazoned with a “China Aid” logo. China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said the ambassador had donated to a hospital, university, orphanage and school for the blind and pledged to “assist Myanmar to achieve eternal peace”.

Economically, we need to deal with China, and on human rights, we need to deal with the West

La Aung, chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly

It should not be surprising that the two superpowers are keen to woo the resource-rich Kachin, which neighbours both China’s Yunnan Province and India, and holds jade, gold, amber, timber, and vast hydropower potential.

Myanmar has signed up to President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, which seeks to link Eurasia with Beijing-backed infrastructure projects, in the form of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. Many of the details of the corridor, for which a memorandum of understanding between the two governments was signed in September 2018, remain unknown to the public. Yet China is ramping up its economic activity across the country, including in Kachin.

The close timing of the envoys’ visits was not lost on locals interviewed by This Week in Asia, who expressed a keen awareness of Kachin’s strategic importance, and a desire to participate in the social and economic future of their state.

According to La Aung, chairman of the Kachin National Consultative Assembly, an independent organisation which advises on matters concerning society in Kachin State, “We Kachin need to deal well with both the West and China for our survival. Economically, we need to deal with China, and on human rights, we need to deal with the West.”

CONCERNS FOR SOME

However, Chinese mega-projects are a concern for many Kachin.

While La Aung said Chinese development in Kachin was inevitable, he worried about the effects on Kachin tradition and culture. “I fear that our culture will run away,” he said. “If there is too much commercial development, people won’t care about each other. Only money will be in the centre. Our hearts, our mentality can change.”

Included in the economic corridor is the construction of an industrial zone known as Namjim, 25km from Myitkyina. The public has been largely left in the dark about plans for the zone, expected to cost US$400 million and cover 4,700 acres, but land disputes emerged in November among dispossessed locals.

According to La Aung, “Namjim will occupy a large area, but China didn’t discuss details carefully with local people or get their agreement, so I don’t support it”.

Another contentious mega-project is the Myitsone hydropower dam, stalled since 2011 in the midst of widespread community resistance. Earlier this year, protests were reignited after China’s former ambassador Hong Liang visited Myitkyina and his embassy released a statement that Kachin’s political leaders had assured him that local people in Kachin did not oppose the project. In October, the Kachin State People’s Party issued a statement calling for a stop to all mega-projects in Kachin until peace had been achieved. The party’s vice-chairman Gumgrawng Awng Hkam said: “Given the instability of the region, China should not implement the [belt and road] nor its mega-projects in Kachin right now … China should consult us Kachin, but they are mainly dealing with the central government over the projects in our region. We know we cannot get the upper hand, but we have to bear it.” ­­­­­­­

At the same time, he said that with many ethnic Kachin residing in Yunnan Province, maintaining cordial cross-border relations was essential.

There are many Kachin in China. We should continue our brotherhood by having good communication with the Chinese government.”

Those interviewed by This Week in Asia voiced concern that Chinese business practices often skirted loosely-enforced regulations and primarily benefited Chinese interests.

Illegal Chinese-backed banana plantations now cover tens of thousands of acres of land in Kachin, bringing a range of environmental and land rights concerns. Reports have also emerged of illegal rare-earth mining along Kachin’s border with China, with little public information available as to the companies involved or the extent and nature of the activities.

Lahkri La Aung, chairman of the Kachin State Mining Association, said that civil war and a patchwork of authorities along the border, including the Myanmar military, Kachin Independence Army and various militias, had enabled Chinese companies to conduct mining activities haphazardly in Kachin, with little regard for the environment or worker safety. He also said that a centralised government limited the authority of state governments to regulate the industry. This situation, he said, had fostered a sense of urgency among local actors at all levels, including the state government, military, armed groups and militias, to grab the resources that were still available. “Locally, people lack a sense of ownership over this region. They think, ‘If we do not act, someone else will’,” he said.

Seng Hkum, chairman of the Kachin State Travel Association, took a more optimistic view towards Kachin’s eastern neighbour. “I welcome Chinese investment if it enables us to build our economy. We cannot avoid China as a great market,” he said. At the same time, he expressed concern about business practices. “I don’t necessarily want to reduce Chinese business engagement, but I want to see a more sustainable, responsible approach.”

SOFT AND POLITE’

America is also building its presence in Kachin. In November, the US Agency for International Development launched a five-year, US$38 million agriculture and food-systems development activity in three regions, including Kachin. In the same month, the agencycalled for proposals for a five-year, US$6 million initiative promoting local solutions to Kachin’s drug epidemic.

Such moves have gone down well with the locals, tapping into historical goodwill.

Awng Hkam said Kachin soldiers’ role in fighting alongside Americans in World War II and the role American missionaries played in bringing Christianity to Kachin had fostered a connection between the two countries, adding: “I really appreciate Americans’ democratic culture…The way they deal with us is soft and polite.”

La Aung hoped the US would continue to support peace-building through providing funding and technical assistance to development projects.

US initiatives in Kachin are firmly positive…they can provide economic support to us to go towards righteousness and peace if we cooperate through joint management of projects,” he said.

While those interviewed by This Week in Asia hoped China could help broker peace talks, they expressed a lack of clarity about the role China intended to take.

Seng Hkum said: “Many Kachin feel that China is closer to the central government and Burmese military. I would like to see China engage more with the ethnic sides as well.”

According to Awng Hkam, China’s ongoing investment in Myanmar during periods of conflict as well as under the former military regime makes some confused over where China stands on the peace process between the Kachin Independence Organisation and the government.

For Lahkri La Aung, achieving peace is essential to ensure that Chinese businesses operate sustainably.

We need stability in the region to create a space where we can jointly do business with China,” he said.

Seng Hkum hoped that Kachin could claim a sense of agency in relation to the US and China.

It’s important for us Kachin to consider how much we will benefit from engaging with both countries. We have to look at our own interests first.

The world’s ideologies are not so distinct any more. It’s not necessary to be an ideological battleground. It’s not necessary for us to be victims. As long as it benefits Kachin, I think we should engage with everyone,” he said. 

Source: SCMP “Chinese money, US human rights: in Myanmar’s Kachin State, a delicate balance”

Note: This is SCMP’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Xi’s Upcoming Visit to Myanmar Could Reshape the Indian Ocean Region


With Xi Jinping’s visit, China is on the verge of realizing a 10-year plan: gaining a back door to the Indian Ocean.

By Amara Thiha January 04, 2020

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, wait for Myanmar delegates to enter for a meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, Aug. 19, 2016.
Credit: Rolex Dela Pena/Pool Photo via AP

A decade after Xi Jinping’s first visit to Myanmar in 2009, Naypyidaw is planning a banquet for another Xi visit, expected to be on January 17, 2020. As part of the preparation, shuttle diplomacy is already underway, with China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi on December 9, 2019. The agenda is loud and clear: to speed up the construction of the projects within the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and realization of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). In particular, speeding up the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ), Beijing’s strategic window to the India Ocean, is on the short list.

Originating as one of 16 MoUs signed during then-Vice President Xi’s 2009 visit, the Kyaukphyu SEZ is the capstone of all China’s investments in Myanmar and was Beijing’s strategic offset in the Indian Ocean prior to the launch of the BRI. However, Chinese projects in Myanmar stalled after the suspension of controversial Myitsone Dam, which created uneasy relations with Beijing for the first time in 20 years and caused BRI capital injections to fall short of the hype. Kyaukphyu was not an exception. The project was significantly trimmed down with the fear of a debt trap.

Beijing’s response was swift as well — it put other Chinese investments on hold and CMEC was held in limbo. Shuttle negotiations were conducted prior to each of the BRI summits to initiate early harvest projects but the priority is crystal clear: Kyaukphyu. Without a full scale operational deep sea port in Kyaukphyu, there is no incentive for the Chinese to invest in Myanmar amid political instability and anti-Chinese sentiments. Myanmar has already missed the train of “early harvest projects.” Beijing is no longer interested to pour in funds as a favor for its friends; economic feasibility along with strategic benefits are now the prioritized factors. Beijing will not bless the Chinese business community and release the funds without the fulfillment of its geopolitical strategic needs.

Meanwhile, Myanmar needs capital inflows to keep the economy afloat ahead of the upcoming election. Realizing and speeding up CMEC is the only feasible choice. Myanmar’s waltz with the West ended with the advent of the Rohingya crisis. Naypyitaw has been courting Beijing again in recent months in order to seek quick cash and keep the back door secure. This puts Kyaukphyu back on the table, along with other projects, as a bargaining chip.

Amid the Rohingya crisis, the ongoing Arakan insurgency, and political wrangling resuming, investing in Rakhine state is a long shot. However, with the realization of the Indo-Pacific strategy in recent years, China needs to secure a back door to the Indian Ocean. With a longstanding good relationship with the Northern Alliance, the Arakan Army is actually comforting for Chinese investments. And Beijing will follow Naypyidaw’s blueprint for Rohingya issues, no matter where it leads. Plus, the assessment for the Kyaukphyu-Yunnan highspeed railway is already conducted and everything is ready to lay the first brick. Beijing’s decade-long plan is now set and with the green light from Xi’s upcoming visit, it will be in full swing.

Indeed, the upcoming visit goes far beyond the Pauk-Phaw relationship, BRI, and CMEC. It will be Beijing’s final push for a strategic projection 10 years in the making. The handshakes with Xi in Naypyitaw may not only impact the political economy of Myanmar for the upcoming decades but also herald the beginning of a new chapter for the geopolitical landscape of the Indian Ocean. Now it is time to review and evaluate the implications for the Indo-Pacific strategy.

Amara Thiha is the Senior Research Manager and head of China Research Desk at Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security (MIPS). The views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of MIPS and Stimson Center.

Source: The Diplomat “Xi’s Upcoming Visit to Myanmar Could Reshape the Indian Ocean Region”

Note: This is The Diplomat’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.


Deal to Be Signed for BRI-Related Economic Zone in Myanmar’s Kachin State


By Nan Lwin 7 October 2019

YANGON – The Kachin State government is planning to sign an agreement next month on the establishment of a China-backed economic zone, paving the way for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project.

Under the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) agreement, which is also a part of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s grand BRI vision, Kachin State signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Yunnan Tengchong Heng Yong Investment Company (YTHIC) in May 2018 for implementation of the Myitkyina Economic Development Zone.

The project, also known as the Namjim Industrial Zone, is 25 km from Myitkyina, the Kachin capital.

We are expected to sign an agreement next month,” the Kachin State chief minister, Dr. Khet Aung, told The Irrawaddy.

Currently, we are finalizing detailed negotiations and a full master plan from the Chinese company.”

YTHIC and the Myitkyina zone committee, formed by the Kachin State government, are expected to build the massive site on approximately 19 sq. km along the historic Ledo Road.

The road was built during World War II so the Allies could supply Chinese troops fighting the Japanese. It linked Ledo, in Indian Assam, and Kunming in China’s Yunnan Province.

The project is expected to cost more than US$400 million (612.5 billion kyats) and include nearly 500 factories and 5,000 buildings.

Kachin’s chief minister said the state government would sign a joint-venture agreement after the initial deal.

He said domestic investors would be invited to back the project.

We hope the project construction will get off the ground early next year,” the chief minister said.

The development zone is one of the lesser-known Chinese-backed projects in Kachin State and has received criticism over a lack of transparency.

In July, the Kachin government first admitted it was engaging in discussions with the Chinese company over the project.

After he visited the site in December, then Chinese Ambassador Hong Liang said the zone would be a crucial part of the BRI.

The BRI is Xi’s grand vision to create trade routes to Europe, Central and Western Asia, Africa and Russia.

It aims to link nearly 70 countries and two-thirds of the world’s population.

According to the MOU viewed by The Irrawaddy, YTHIC and the state government agreed to establish a joint-venture company to implement the zone.

Both sides agreed that YTHIC would loan the money to pay for feasibility studies and the environmental impact assessment. But the joint venture company must repay YTHIC for these expenses.

According to the agreement, the joint-venture company will obtain a 50-year lease for the land and the government must transfer the land rights within 90 days of the company’s formation.

The MOU says the Kachin government must form investment organizations for the economic zone.

It is required to secure official permission for the project and apply for tax exemptions.

The MOU says the Chinese company has full authority to invite third-party investors and no similar project will be allowed near Myitkyina for 15 years.

When The Irrawaddy visited the site in April, landowners said they were concerned about the threat of confiscations.

Land-grabbing is a major issue in Kachin State, especially in Waingmaw Township across the river from Myitkyina, where there is a proliferation of Chinese-operated banana plantations. The Kachin parliament’s complaints committee said it had received 345 complaints since the National League for Democracy took office in 2016, including 179 complaints over land seizures.

A group of landowners have negotiated over 2.6 sq. km inside the site.

They say they are yet to receive a reply from the government about compensation.

Lawyer U Gannes Basnez, who works with residents, told The Irrawaddy: “We are aware the government is going to take further steps [by signing an agreement] to implement the project. But the landowners have not received any response from the government.”

He added, “We will face that issue using the law.”

Source: The Irrawaddy “Deal to Be Signed for BRI-Related Economic Zone in Myanmar’s Kachin State”

Note: This is The Irrawaddy’s report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.


Myanmar, Key Part of China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road


China has built pipelines from Kyaukpyu to Southwest China and been building a port at Kyaukpyu. As China signed a memorandum of understanding on China-Myanmar economic corridor as a major project of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a railway will be built from the port to Southwest China through Mandalay for China to bypass the Malacca Strait.

That will be the major part of China’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road linking China with the Middle East, Europe and Africa. For Europe, there will be the Arctic Route but it seems so far it will only provide trade route in warm seasons.

Now according to Myanmar Times report “Myanmar seeks to establish Myanmar-India-China economic corridor”, Myanmar is much interested in the establishment of Myanmar-India-China economic corridor. The said railway will be the major part of that corridor. It will provide a short cut for China-India trade.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Myanmar Times’ report, full text of which can be viewed at https://www.mmtimes.com/news/myanmar-seeks-establish-myanmar-india-china-economic-corridor.html.