Analysis of Chinese possible diplomatic relations to Myanmar beyond 2015

Writer: 
Wai Phyoe

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There has been a noticeable change in China’s strategy on diplomatic relations with Myanmar. China has placed a higher priority on how to improve diplomatic relations with Myanmar beyond 2015.

 China previously invited Aung San Suu Kyi, pro-democracy leader and Noble Peace laureate, to pay a visit to China. What is more, China has noticeably supported the chairperson of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).   

At such a time, Thura Shwe Mann who has been very friendly in his dealings with the Myanmar opposition leader held a meeting with Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping in Beijing, China on April 27. It appears that such meeting is an interesting story. This is why it will reflect China’s attitude toward Myanmar. Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping giving a pleasant smile at Thura Shwe Mann can be seen in the news photo reported by Xinhua news agency. Televised news and photos showed that Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping was giving a better deal for Thura Shwe Mann. China rolled out the red carpet for visiting Thura Shwe Mann. No, no, that’s quite unnecessary because Thura Shwe Mann is really a parliament speaker.

Mr Xi Jinping is not only a president but he is also a chairman of ruling Chinese Communist Party. In the same way, Thura Shwe Mann is the speaker of the Union parliament as well as being the chairman of ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party. Both of the figures pledged that closer cooperation would be fortified between the two ruling parties.

In recent days, President Thein Sein of Myanmar and Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping held a separate meeting during Asian African Summit. Both of them were the same occasion in China during June in 2014. But their meeting was different from that of Thura Shwe Mann by studying the official reports with photos.

China seems to aim at regarding Myanmar as its strategic partner and a country of profitable natural resources in addition to its reliable ally in ASEAN and South-China Sea issues. China looks desirous of Myanmar to be a stable coalition government so as to escape from the influence of Western powers even if Myanmar became a federal Union at a time when the democratic government came to power. For that reason, Mr Xi Jinping made Thura Shwe Mann look attractive by giving the red carpet treatment just like a president.

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China is supposedly changing its diplomacy in dealing with Myanmar upholding long-lasting friendship. This point became more noticeable after Chinese political scientists had disclosed if Myanmar’s reform process totally came to an end. According to the paper of the Social Science College of China and Asia-Pacific and International Art of War Research Office, these writings were stated in Contemporary World journal issued by the central foreign relations department of Chinese Communist Party. The ideas of this journal can be seen in the Global Times’s reviews of Myanmar affairs. The Global Times spotlights the perspective of the Chinese government.

The Global Times warned that Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD could influence over the people. As regards, the Global Times urged the Chinese government to approach Aung San Suu Kyi and her opposition party as it was impossible to rule out them. The Chinese newspaper, moreover, suggested that China ought to promote and strength regular bilateral relations with Myanmar.

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China’s diplomacy strategy toward Myanmar has become more noticeable at a time when the 2015 general elections get nearer. The ways China deal with President Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing can be evaluated. In Laukkaing issue, Fan Changlong, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission told Min Aung Hlaing, the commander-in-chief of defence services that Myanmar military should “seriously control” its troops and prevent any recurrence of such an incident. “Otherwise Chinese military will take resolute measures to protect the safety of Chinese people and their assets” Fan was quoted saying by Xinhua. Fan said that Myanmar should understand the seriousness of the incident, launch a thorough investigation and also provide compensation to the families of victims. Later, President Thein Sein assigned duties to foreign minister Wunna Maung Lwin to provide compensations and make an apology. No sooner had Myanmar’s bombs dropped in China border than Chinese fighter jets were sent to “track, monitor, warn and chase away”. It is the first time China deployed its troops at China-Myanmar border within 25 years. Chinese troop deployment became a barrier to Myanmar in fighting against Kokang rebels.

Such situations are Chinese government’s attitudes towards President Thein Sein and Military Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

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In addition to the government and Tatmadaw (army, navy and air forces), China has an influence on four armed ethnic groups—United Wa State Army (UWSA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Karen National Union (KNU) , Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA). Myanmar army could not easily fight about 2,000 Kokang troops as Chinese role is large. Wa has a force of about 30,000 troops and KIA, about 10,000 troops. How will Myanmar military fight them?

The current clashes are showing a test for fighting skill and military skill of Myanma Tatmadaw whose possesses more than 300,000 soldiers. It is also a limited battle. Based on this point, China assessed political and military affairs.

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China’s diplomacy is different among regional countries. But China wants Myanmar to be peaceful and stable and this point is clear. During the meeting with President Thein Sein in Indonesia, Chinese President Mr Xi Jinping focused on cooperation in building peace and stability of the border and developments.

The conference of armed ethnic groups will be held in Panghsan early May. It is not easy to exactly know about ‘how will China have the opinion on the ethnic conference’. But the conference will be held at the headquarters of the UWSA which is backed by China.

The Chinese President met with Thura Shwe Mann at a time when President Thein Sein sees less support from the public, and the clashes between Myanmar army and armed ethnic groups go on. Chinese government seems to approach the leader winning the support of the people and the soft liners in ethnic issues, but they don’t want those preferring to use military action (hawkish).

Thura Shwe Mann was tipped for the successor to retired Senior General Than Shwe in the transition from the previous military regime to the quasi-civilian government, but Thein Sein became the president. Now is also the same matter. Unless Thein Sein is the president in the next government, Military Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is tipped as the president. The critics said that Thein Sein and Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is one pair, similarly, Aung San Suu Kyi and Thura Shwe Mann is one pair to govern the country. When reviewing the current diplomacy of China, China prefers the duo of Aung San Suu Kyi and Thura Shwe Mann. For that reason, the US and China will have to keep an eye on the ethnic conference and the six-party talk.

Anyhow, it is questionable whether China will give priority to the emergence of the peaceful and stable government backed by the people beyond 2015 and whether it will interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs just like hand in glove with Myanmar during the previous 25 years.