When Myanmar heads for the polls today on November 8 2020, voters will be indirectly choosing between more or less engagement with China and with Belt & Road Initiative.

A vote for de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) promises a continuation of policies that have paved the way for China’s recent unprecedented expansion inside the country.

A vote for many ethnic-based parties, on the other hand, will be de facto support for resistance to China-backed infrastructure and other projects that have either been initiated or supported by Suu Kyi’s central government but strongly resisted at a grassroots level.

That electoral narrative flips the script on previous power relations, where for years Beijing propped military-aligned regimes ostracized and sanctioned by the West for their rights abuses and then-political prisoner Suu Kyi who was known to view dimly China’s supporting role.

Author: Rory Wallace