China strengthens relations with Myanmar military junta despite international condemnation

Trade and diplomatic relations between Myanmar and China are returning to normal in the face of fierce domestic opposition and international condemnation of the military junta that seized power in February.

Beijing has strengthened ties with Myanmar’s military leaders despite a series of violent attacks against Chinese business interests in the country after the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government.

Yun Sun, an expert on Myanmar-China relations at the Stimson Center, a US think tank, said Beijing had already made a “baseline assessment” that Myanmar was transitioning into another prolonged period of military rule.

She added: “I think the Chinese can see that this military coup is successful and that it is here to stay.”

The resumption of state-level engagement and economic activity indicates that Myanmar is getting back to work traditional economic dependence In China. The country has used its larger neighbor as a buffer against international sanctions and divestment by foreign investors, who have announced their plans to leave the country or Projects on the shelves.

Since the coup, 875 people have been killed by the junta and 6,242 arrested, according to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners (Burma), a human rights organization. The country’s economy and public services were severely disrupted Through mass protests in the three months following the coup, she only partially recovered.

The resumption of bilateral trade will fuel widespread suspicion among anti-coup resistance groups that China is willing to support the new military regime.

The cumulative value of China’s imports from Myanmar for the first five months of the year was $3.38 billion, up from $2.43 billion in 2020 and $2.56 billion in 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, according to official Chinese customs data.

However, exports to Myanmar did not recover in the same period to the same extent. By the end of May, $4.28 billion worth of goods had been shipped to Myanmar, compared to $4.56 billion and $4.79 billion in the previous two years.

In another sign of strengthening diplomatic ties, Chen Hai, China’s ambassador to Myanmar, met coup leader and army chief Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, the capital, in June. In a later statement, Chin referred to Min Aung Hlaing as Myanmar’s leader.

China was among the countries that abstained from voting at the United Nations General Assembly last week to call on the international community to do so Stop the flow of weapons to Myanmar and release Aung San Suu Kyi and other political detainees.

Beijing had good relations with the government of the detained deposed leader الزعيم He faces multiple criminal charges. However, he refrained from criticizing the army, which sparked anger among the mass protest movements that emerged after the coup.

In addition to being Myanmar’s largest trading partner, China also has Strategic Infrastructure Investments in the country, including energy pipelines that give Beijing an important link to the Indian Ocean.

James Shar, an expert on Myanmar at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said many people in Myanmar still blame the Chinese government and business interests for complicity in supporting decades of military rule prior to the transition to democracy.

“The Chinese themselves are very clear about that [public sentiment in Myanmar]Shar said.

Attacks on China-related companies The aftermath of the coup culminated in an explosion at a Chinese-backed textile factory west of Yangon on June 11, according to reports from Myanmar’s local media, as well as information services controlled by the junta and Chinese state media.

Analysts said Beijing’s caution about fueling protesters in Myanmar is likely to slow Chinese direct investment and the resumption of planned large-scale developments that formed part of President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative.

Additional reporting by Sherry Fei Guo in Beijing

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