While Myanmar’s Rakhine State has attracted the world’s attention due to the Rohingya crisis, the unique role Rakhine plays in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (‘BRI’) is less known. Contrary to popular perception, Myanmar’s comparative advantages in China’s BRI blueprint do not come from its natural resources or labour, but rather from its geopolitical location as China’s potential gateway to the Indian Ocean.
Rakhine State, which dominates Myanmar’s west coast facing the Andaman Sea, has become the host of China’s two largest investment projects in the country: the Sino-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines, and the Kyaukphyu deep-sea port. Both projects carry special strategic importance for China’s national agenda. The security challenges that emerged from the Rohingya crisis have augmented China’s security interests associated with Rakhine.
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