China’s top diplomat seen Myanmar this week to reconfirm leading infrastructure programs using its Southeast Asian neighbor, his next visit to Naypyidaw in 2020 plus a signal Beijing is gearing up connections in the area to assist offset deteriorating ties with the West, analysts said Wednesday.
The trip from Yang Jiechi, head of the Chinese Communist Party’s foreign affairs division, follows weeks of strident U.S. complaint of China’s policies from the South China Sea, in addition to pointed complaints regarding Beijing’s function in Myanmar by a senior U.S. diplomat at Naypyidaw.
Yang, a part of China’s powerful Politburo, fulfilled individually Tuesday with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi,” President Win Myint, also army commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing at Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.
They spoke speeding up work on the enormous Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) projects, progressing the build-out of their China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) — a subsection of this BRI — enhancing bilateral investment and trade, along with continuing support for Myanmar’s peace process, based on Chinese and Myanmar media reports.
Yang also said China would prioritize the sharing of a COVID-19 vaccine with Myanmar when it’s developed, the reports stated.
Myanmar political analysts and observers stated that the Chinese diplomat’s trip — his next to the nation this season — has been driven by a desire to maintain Myanmar firmly in its own corner amid the intensifying competition between China and Western countries.
“Instead of pulling Myanmar to China-U.S. worries, this is a fantastic thing the two countries reveal mutual understanding and collaboration,” political analyst Than Soe Naing told RFA on Wednesday.
“They say that they will continue to execute projects already consented to and will boost collaboration in the post-COVID period,” he explained.
Yang’s assembly comes almost eight months later he accompanied Chinese President Xi Jinping to a state visit to Myanmar to indicate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between both nations and also to sign several deals to execute infrastructure projects under Xi’s trademark BRI.
Xi’s trip — the first by a Chinese leader in almost two years — marked a”new age” of bilateral relations,” Yang said during his present trip, including that leaders of both countries should”collectively build a community of Sino-Burmese fate,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Yang’s trip”reveals that Myanmar is growing increasingly more significant to China and highlights Myanmar’s great value for its own diplomacy,” said Khin Khin Kyaw Kyee, lead researcher in the Institute for Strategy and Policy–Myanmar, an independent, nonpartisan think tank.
China also wishes to ensure the huge jobs it’s financing in Myanmar will continue as intended in light of a potential change of government in 2021, ” she explained.
“China would like to secure the arrangements for specific jobs before the forthcoming election,” said Khin Khin Kyaw Kyee, whose study concentrates on Myanmar-Chinese relations and the BRI. Myanmar will hold general elections on Nov. 8.
China has spent in several big infrastructure projects in Myanmar, such as
that the Kyaukphyu deep-sea vent on the Bay of Bengal at Rakhine state, a high-speed railway line linking Kyaukphyu to southwestern China’s landlocked Yunnan province, along with also the New Yangon city improvement project.
RFA contacted authorities spokesman Zaw Htay for comment regarding Yang’s trip on Wednesday, but he didn’t respond to questions.
Political analyst Maung Maung Soe, who was able to reside at the Burmese Communist Party-controlled area across the border, said Yang is probably focused on shoring up China’s relations with its neighbor.
“There’s growing competition between China and Western nations above winning Myanmar over for their own hands,” he explained.
“China could be wanting to combine its foreign relations,” he explained.
US diplomat blasts China
At a July 18 op-ed in the online journal The Irrawaddy, George Sibley, the chargé d’affaires in the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, blasted China’s crackdown on Hong Kong, along with its intimidation of neighbors and competitive activities in the South China Sea.
“These events are happening from Myanmar, however the PRC [People’s Republic of China] has utilized similar behaviour to bully, threaten, and sabotage Myanmar sovereignty closer to home,” he wrote in an article which blamed China for Myanmar’s issues with unregulated banana plantations, forced labour, and corruption in the mining and forestry industries.
Reiterating U.S. complaint of Xi’s BRI program, Sibley took aim in”infrastructure projects and special economic zones which heap on debt and cede regulatory management, and gain China more than they do the people of Myanmar.”
Hla Kyaw Zaw, a political analyst based in Yunnan province on the Myanmar-China boundary, said the trip was a part of a bigger attempt by China to find the 10 nations that include the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to rear its own larger agendas.
“China has two chief agendas for ASEAN states this season,” he explained. “The initial step would be to signal the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement with all the ASEAN states, [while] the next problem will be to adopt a Code of Conduct for South China Sea problems.
The RCEP is a trade deal between 15 nations in the Asia-Pacific area, such as the 10 ASEAN members, China, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand, also will grow to be the world’s biggest trade pact when signed after this season.
China was pushing for the RCEP, viewing it as a chance to establish regional commerce rules without U.S. sway and also to profit economically due to a fall in U.S.-China commercial action.
China has been lobbying Southeast Asian nations to agree on a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea, a group of rules and criteria for preventing conflicts in contested waters of this sea, which offers critical shipping lanes and is considered to contain abundant marine and mineral resources.
“China is currently hoping to acquire Myanmar’s support for these problems amid the anxieties with U.S. within the South China Sea,” Hla Kyaw Zaw explained.
called China’s foreign policy czar,” Yang served as ambassador to the U.S. from 2001 into 2005, and China’s foreign ministry between 2007 and 2013.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo, Waiyan Moe Myint, and Nay Myo Htun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English from Roseanne Gerin.