Beijing Urges Gov’t to Get Ball Rolling on China-Myanmar Economic Corridor
By Nan Lwin 27 November 2018
YANGON—The vice chairman of China’s top economic planning agency has pushed Myanmar’s State Counselor to work out an implementation plan for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, a part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
China National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) Vice Chairman Ning Jizhe held talks with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw on Monday, according to Myanmar state media.
According to a press release, their discussion focused on the details of a working plan to implement the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which will stretch 1,700 km between the two countries from Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, to Myanmar’s major economic centers.
The working plan also covers the implementation of the Myanmar-China border economic cooperation zones and upgrades to three major roads through Mandalay, Muse (located in northern Shan State on the border with Yunnan province) and other parts of the state.
Myanmar occupies a unique geographical position in the BRI, lying at the junction of South and Southeast Asia, and between the Indian Ocean and southwestern China’s landlocked Yunnan province.
The State Counselor said CMEC projects needed to be implemented in line with the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan and should support the long-term interests of both peoples.
She stressed that China needed to negotiate the projects systematically and in accordance with domestic rules and regulations.
The visit came two weeks after Myanmar inked a framework agreement on the development of China’s ambitious Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ), a key strategic project under the BRI that is expected to boost development in China’s landlocked Yunnan province and provide China with direct access to the Indian Ocean, allowing its oil imports to bypass the Strait of Malacca.
In September, an agreement was signed by Myanmar Minister of Planning and Finance U Soe Win and He Lifeng, chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), to construct basic infrastructure across key economic centers in Myanmar.
The first leg of the CMEC will link with Mandalay in central Myanmar. The corridor then branches east to Yangon and west to the Kyaukphyu SEZ. As part of the CMEC, the two sides agreed to construct three economic cooperation zones along the Myanmar-China border in Shan and Kachin states.
The governments have agreed to collaborate on many sectors including basic infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, transport, finance, human resources development, telecommunications, and research and technology.
In October, two state-owned companies, China Railway Eryuan Engineering Group (China Railway Group Ltd) and Myanmar Railways signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to begin studying a proposed railway line from Muse to Mandalay, which are envisioned as key hubs in a plan to improve connectivity in Southeast Asia. Muse is the largest trade portal between the two nations. Mandalay is central Myanmar’s commercial center and the country’s second-largest city. The railway is expected to become a lifeline for China-Myanmar trade.
In November 2017, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi announced a proposal to build the CMEC following a meeting with State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw. Wang said the economic corridor would enhance investment in development and trade under Chinese-Myanmar cooperation as part of the BRI.
The BRI is Chinese President Xi Jinping’s signature foreign policy project. Unveiled in 2013, it is also known as the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road. The project aims to build a network of roads, railroads and shipping lanes linking at least 70 countries from China to Europe passing through Central Asia, the Middle East and Russia, fostering trade and investment.
Ning also held meetings with Yangon Chief Minister U Phyo Min Thein on Sunday. No details of their discussion were released to the media, however.
The New Yangon City project is a component of the CMEC plan. New Yangon Development Company (NYDC) and Hong Kong-listed China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) signed a framework agreement for the US$1.5-billion development project, which is envisioned as a complex of new towns, industrial parks and urban development projects. Recently, NYDC said it was in the final stage of negotiating with CCCC over the project’s technical specifications, financial proposal, and business model and related documents. It said details would be announced soon.