Stepping up Beijing’s support for the Myanmar military junta, which staged a coup last year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his visiting Myanmar counterpart that China was ready to work with his country to deepen exchanges and cooperation in all areas.
Junta-appointed Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin was in China from March 31 to April 2 at the invitation of Wang Yi.
During the meeting in Tunxi, Anhui Province on Friday, Wang said Beijing “has always placed Myanmar in an important position in its neighborly diplomacy” while expressing Beijing’s desire that the two sides should advance the construction of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor; strengthen cooperation on industrial parks, cross-border power grids and connectivity; and implement landmark projects.
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.
It was also condemned for taking a soft approach towards the junta by saying its priorities are stability and not interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbor. The coup has so far killed more than 1,700 people and caused social and political instability, with many observers fearing that the country is now on the verge of being a failed state.
A Chinese government press release said Wunna Maung Lwin expressed deep concerns over Myanmar’s economic difficulties, which were aggravated by the drastic changes in the current international situation.
In return, Wang said, China is ready to strengthen coordination with Myanmar to help overcome difficulties.
During the meeting with Wunna Maung Lwin, according to the Chinese press release, the two sides had an in-depth discussion on regional cooperation and exchanged views on issues including the South China Sea and the Ukraine crisis. The US and EU have warned China not to support Russia.
Wang stressed that joint efforts should be made to cope with the negative spillover effects of the Ukraine crisis, oppose unilateral sanctions and “long-arm jurisdiction”, and safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing countries.
Since the coup, regime leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing has made diplomatic overtures toward Russia and visited there. The Myanmar regime has purchased military hardware from Russia, and Moscow has backed the regime’s coup. The regime has sent several high-ranking delegations to Russia since the coup.
When Russia invaded Ukraine, Myanmar’s spokesman expressed support for Russia.
After its failure to condemn the coup, sustained anti-China demonstrations erupted in Myanmar and factories owned and run by Chinese companies have been attacked.
However, during the first week of June, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai met Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyitaw, becoming the first ambassador to do so.
In the same month, a Chinese government’s “fundamental assessment” of Myanmar showed that the country was moving into another prolonged period of military rule, according to the Financial Times.
Yun Sun, an expert on Myanmar-China relations at the Stimson Center, a US think-tank, said to the Times that, “I think the Chinese can see that this military coup is successful and is here to stay.”
During the Friday meeting, China said it supported regional group ASEAN, which includes Myanmar, for playing a mediating role in Myanmar’s crisis.
Wang urged regional countries to work with Myanmar to constructively implement ASEAN’s “five-point consensus” based on the principle of non-interference in the bloc’s internal affairs.
The consensus is the bloc’s peace plan for Myanmar, including an immediate cessation of violence in the country. Last year, ASEAN didn’t allow the junta chief to attend the bloc’s summit after his failure to honor the agreement.
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