In the first of a two-part series, contributor Yun Sun examines the different approaches China has taken to mediating in Myanmar’s armed conflicts, and why it has begun to adopt a more limited – yet still important – role.
SINCE Myanmar’s current peace process began eight years ago, ethnic reconciliation has become a benchmark in evaluating progress of the Myanmar nation and state, alongside civil-military relations and economic development.
China is undeniably a major stakeholder in this process. Many of Myanmar’s non-state armed groups hold territory along or close to the 2,000-kilometre border that it shares with China, and armed conflict along the border has the potential to undermine China’s national security. For China, this creates an impulse – even a need – to intervene in and mediate the conflict.
Previously, the political justification for intervention in Myanmar’s conflicts had been a problem, especially in the context of China’s principle of non-interference in other countries’ internal affairs. However, that obstacle was removed long ago by citing the direct impact of the conflict on China’s core national interests. When the internal affairs of Myanmar create instability and insecurity on the shared border, it was seen as having become China’s business, reconciling the gap between the need to intervene and the principle of non-interference.
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