China has started calling the Myanmar junta the “government” and pledged US$6 million to fund 21 development projects in the country.
A statement from the junta’s foreign ministry said that the funds were to be transferred from China for projects within the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation framework. It said they included animal vaccines, culture, agriculture, science, tourism and disaster prevention.
China’s ambassador to Myanmar, Chen Hai, and Wunna Maung Lwin, the regime’s foreign minister, signed the agreement via video conference.
During the video conference meeting, China’s ambassador addressed Wunna Maung Lwin as “His Excellency Union Minister for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”.
On August 8, just seven days after the junta announced the formation of a caretaker government on August 1, China also addressed the junta as “government” when it delivered COVID-19 vaccines to Myanmar. Coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing is the self-appointed prime minister of the regime’s caretaker government.
Previously, Beijing has avoided referring to the military regime as a government. Before August, when delivering coronavirus vaccines, China referred to Myanmar as Naing Ngan, or country.
In June, China’s government made a “fundamental assessment” that Myanmar is moving into another prolonged period of military rule, according to the Financial Times.
During the first week of June, Ambassador Chen Hai met Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw, Myanmar’s capital, becoming the first ambassador to do so.
Yun Sun, an expert on Myanmar-China relations with the Stimson Center, a US think-tank, said, “I think the Chinese can see that this military coup is successful and is here to stay.”
China is one of the top investors in Myanmar and has strategic infrastructure projects in the country, including energy pipelines and a proposed port that would give Beijing a critical link to the Indian Ocean. China also continues to provide political and military support to ethnic armed groups based along the Myanmar-China border.
Some leaders of those ethnic armed organizations (EAO’s) recently told the Irrawaddy that China’s policy towards Myanmar is evolving post-coup and that Beijing will employ diverse strategies to contain both old and new political forces.
They added that China will also have a new approach to the EAO’s, but did not elaborate on what that will be.
Myanmar has seen sustained anti-China demonstrations since the military seized power in February, and factories owned and run by Chinese companies have been attacked.
Beijing has been accused of taking a soft approach towards the junta, but insists its priorities are stability and not interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbor.
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