Xi’s Myanmar visit to usher in new vistas

The national flags of China and Myanmar. (Photo from CFP)
The national flags of China and Myanmar. (Photo from CFP)

By Dai Yonghong

China and Myanmar have established diplomatic relations for 70 years since 1950. During the past seven decades, the international situation has changed significantly. In spite of huge pressures from domestic politics and foreign policies, both countries have been maintaining friendly neighborly relations, cooperating under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and sticking to the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. The two countries set a good example of building a harmonious world.

China and Myanmar boosting harmonious and stable bilateral ties is of strategic significance. As a strategic channel from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, a hub connecting South Asia, East Asia and Southeast Asia, and a sea gate of China’s “two-ocean” strategy, Myanmar sits at crucial strategic location.

Myanmar’s role in ensuring China’s energy supply diversification is significant. China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline provides a better energy channel option for China. Furthermore, Myanmar’s border with China has been demarcated since 1960. It was the first country to settle border issues with China since the founding of the People’s Republic of China. It sets an important example and is a pioneer of China’s development of harmonious relations with neighboring countries.

On his first overseas trip in 2020, President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Myanmar on January 17 and 18. Xi’s visit shows respect to former Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and former prime minister of Myanmar U Nu who contributed significantly to bilateral ties. It also reveals his affirmation of cooperation between the two countries under the BRI framework and his desire to further enrich relations and start a new era of China-Myanmar ties.

Xi’s visit will focus on agenda such as the construction of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor and cooperation on infrastructure and regional security.

First, the two countries have common interests in maintaining regional peace and security. As an important participant in regional and global governance, Beijing will cooperate with Nay Pyi Taw in dealing with regional conflicts and the Rohingya issue.

As a member of ASEAN, Myanmar will carry out closer economic and trade cooperation with China under the framework of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. By promoting the development of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, Myanmar’s economic development will have more opportunities due to the huge Chinese market. Also, China can open up more to Southeast Asia through Myanmar and help the country become an important participant in the BRI. Besides, Myanmar can learn from China’s successful experience of development and government to make breakthroughs in its progress.

Of course, there are obstacles on the way to a promising future for relations. Some factors still hold back and constrain the depth and breadth of bilateral cooperation. On the one hand, external forces continue to meddle in the relationship between China and Myanmar.

Since the beginning of its democratization, Myanmar has made great achievements, but has also encountered new problems, especially in its lack of proper management of non-governmental organizations (NGOs). For example, some NGOs play the role of agents of international anti-China forces. They sabotage the friendship between China and Myanmar within both Myanmar’s government and its society, creating problems for the promotion of China-Myanmar relations.

On the other hand, certain unresolved issues that have already existed between China and Myanmar are still troubling. Take the Myitsone Dam and the Letpadaung Copper Mine as instances. The disagreements over them have not been dealt with properly. This hinders the further development of China-Myanmar relations, as well as the expansion of bilateral trade and investment. Moreover, there is mismanagement of the grey areas along the China-Myanmar border. Illegal trade, drug trafficking and insurgent groups are quite active in the area, complicating the situation. Tackling these problems needs time which tests the will and wisdom of both countries’ leaders.

President Xi’s visit to Myanmar not only reaffirms China’s firm belief in building harmonious surroundings, but also serves to support the objectivity, fairness and restraint of Myanmar President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in dealing with international and domestic affairs. The visit also shows China’s determination and commitment to new cooperation and build a new Asian periphery with Myanmar. Under the circumstance that the world is undergoing significant historical changes, China is now facing great opportunities for its national rejuvenation. Myanmar is making rapid progress in its democratization and modernization as well. Both countries should jointly face the turbulent international situation, joining hands to achieve the crucial goals of independence and prosperity.

The author is director at the Institute of the Bay of Bengal Studies, Shenzhen University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

Source:Global Times

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