If so, as Yun Sun of the Stimson Centre in Washington writes (in the Irrawaddy, an online news organisation based in Thailand), he may have misjudged China’s priorities these days. The government is connecting south-west China with the Bay of Bengal via two oil-and-gas pipelines and other vast infrastructure projects in Myanmar. That country’s strategic importance, she says, “significantly outweighs China’s interest in the border ethnic groups”. In expecting sympathy from China, Mr Phone may be pushing his luck.

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