China’s Foreign Minister told his Myanmar counterpart on Tuesday that Beijing is ready to work with his country, as China’s policy toward its neighbor is “not affected by changes to Myanmar’s domestic and external situation”. The pair spoke on the sidelines of this week’s ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ Special Meeting in Chongqing.
“China has supported, is supporting and will support Myanmar in choosing a development path that suits its own circumstances,” Wang Yi said to Wunna Maung Lwin during their meeting.
The Chinese foreign minister’s comments came as its southern neighbor Myanmar remains mired in economic and political turmoil more than four months after the military seized power in a coup in February.
The US and EU have imposed sanctions against the junta leaders, while some Western companies have left the country in response to the regime’s human rights violations, including the killing of more than 800 people during crackdowns on anti-regime protesters.
Given the current situation, Wang’s latest comment has prompted speculation that Chinese investors may be gearing up to fill the void left by their Western counterparts.
The two foreign ministers also discussed ways to advance relations between their countries and “the continued implementation of Myanmar-China bilateral projects”, among other issues, according to Myanmar’s state-run newspapers.
“Of course they would be happy to jump in,” said a China-Myanmar relations observer in Yangon, adding that the regime is now desperate for outside investment.
“They [regime] would be very responsive to requests for project approvals,” he said, meaning projects previously agreed between Myanmar’s ousted National League for Democracy-led government and China would likely get started soon.
During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Myanmar last year, Beijing and the NLD government agreed to speed up bilateral economic corridor projects including the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone, the New Yangon City development in Myanmar’s commercial capital, and economic zones in Shan and Kachin states near the Chinese border.
Despite the agreements signed during Xi’s trip, none of the projects had moved to the actual implementation phase under the NLD government. The civilian government said it was carefully reviewing all the projects, especially their commercial viability and whether they were in line with Myanmar’s national development plan.
However, in the wake of the coup, the regime has reorganized three crucial committees as it pushes ahead with plans to implement giant infrastructure projects in Myanmar that are a key part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The committees play a crucial role in engaging with Beijing on the implementation of BRI-related bilateral economic development projects, including determining key projects, signing memorandums of understanding and conducting government-to-government negotiations.
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