Since 2016, when Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy came to power in Myanmar, China’s relations with the Southeast Asian state have been surprisingly smooth considering Beijing’s close ties with its former military regimes.
Previously widespread anti-Chinese sentiment, founded in controversial Chinese investments in natural resources, has largely dissipated. The shift reflects Suu Kyi’s pragmatic leadership style and her isolation from the West, condemning her for her apparent indifference toward the Rohingya refugee crisis.
The NLD government has paved the way for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a sweeping, multibillion dollar infrastructure scheme aimed at linking southwest China with Myanmar. China is also playing a largely constructive, though discreet, role in facilitating negotiations to end the 70-year civil war between the armed wings of minority ethnic groups and the central government.
One of China’s intended strategic outposts in Southeast Asia, Myanmar serves as a prime example of Beijing’s determination to consolidate influence and maintain dominance in its backyard. It also presents an opportunity for China to use its considerable clout in positive ways.
This article was originally published in the Nikkei Asian Review on October 8, 2019. Read the full article here.