Chinese President Xi Jinping in Myanmar after a Red Carpet welcome, the widespread mistrust of Beijing’s ambitions and its influence over armed insurgencies in areas bordering the two Countries threaten to undermine the bond.
“The next one, two, three decades will be defined by Myanmar’s Relationship with China,” said Yangon based Analyst Richard Horsey.
Activists are expected to protest in the commercial hub Yangon on Saturday against any reinstatement of the Belt & Road Project. Economic interests aside, Myanmar’s relationship with the superpower has other benefits.
China supports Myanmar in “Safeguarding its legitimate Rights, Interests & National Dignity”
In an op-ed in Myanmar’s State-run Media this week, President Xi said China supports Myanmar in “Safeguarding its legitimate Rights, Interests & National Dignity”. China shields Myanmar at the United Nations, where pressure is mounting for accountability over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims.
Aung San Suu Kyi personally defended her nation against accusations of genocide at the UN’s top court last month after a 2017 military crackdown forced 740,000 Rohingya over the border into Bangladesh.
The alleged atrocities took place in Rakhine, which has since descended into a civil war between the military and an ethnic Rakhine rebel group. Myanmar has nonetheless declared the state open for business.
While many Western investors are steering clear, China, competing against other regional giants has few such qualms.
“President Xi’s visit will amplify concerns the West is losing Myanmar to China,” said Horsey.
Domestically, Aung San Suu Kyi needs economic wins as well as diplomatic support as she heads towards elections due at the end of this year.
President Xi’s visit has triggered mixed reactions.
A number of key militant groups, known to be under the shadowy influence of Beijing welcomed the Summit.
But a plethora of activists spoke out against China’s projects and Amnesty International weighed in, decrying the “absolute lack of transparency”.
Rakhine locals, meanwhile, fear they will again be overlooked after previous Beijing backed infrastructure projects left many without land or livelihoods.
“They didn’t bring any benefits for us, not even any jobs,” Moe Moe Aye from Kyaukphyu SEZ Watch Group told.