Chinese Magazine’s Depiction of Mandalay Palace Causes Anger in Myanmar

By Zarni Mann 16 September 2019

MANDALAY – The monthly magazine China Today is under fire over its cover photo for a story on China-Myanmar relations.

The cover of the June issue featuring the old palace walls in Mandalay with a reflection of a Chinese palace wall in Mandalay’s moat has gone viral this week.

Social media commenters said the picture undermines the sovereignty of Myanmar. One Facebook comment said the Mandalay Palace is a symbol of the country’s sovereignty and putting a Chinese palace as a reflection suggested China had great influence over Mandalay, as well as the wider country.

“We need to urge the government to take note of this magazine. The old palace of Mandalay is a symbol of our power and cultural heritage. Using a reflection of a Chinese palace is an insult and challenges our sovereignty. It could create more bad feeling for China, as many already dislike the Chinese influence,” posted Facebook user Ko Nay Min.

Mandalay, Myanmar’s last royal capital, is seen as a cultural and business hub that acts as a gateway to China.

The city has large numbers of Chinese migrants and settlers, who have mostly arrived since the 1980s.

Major fires in the 1980s destroyed large sections of the city amid political unrest and an economic downturn.

Many residents who lacked the funds to rebuild their properties in the heart of the city sold up to Chinese settlers.

“Some of the Chinese settlers did not respect the city’s rules and many residents became hostile. In Mandalay, and across the country, a lot of people dislike the Chinese and the fact that the government is trying to boost the bilateral relationship,” said Hsu Nget, a Mandalay-based author.

He said the magazine’s editor should understand the sensitivities on the issue of Chinese influence. Controversial Chinese projects and investments are widely criticized and unpopular, the author added.

He said the China Today picture saddened Mandalay’s residents, who see the palace walls as fundamental to national sovereignty and cultural heritage.

“We are good neighbors and we don’t want the relationship to be damaged by a picture. I think the magazine should explain why it has used the picture,” Hsu Nget said.

The author said the story in the magazine was about the cultural relationship between China and Myanmar.
“Maybe they want to show the connection between Burmese and Chinese culture, but they should be aware of the sensitivities and avoid things which could be misinterpreted and misunderstood,” he added.

China Today and the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, which distributes the magazine, were unavailable for comment.

A joint publication by the embassy and China Radio International’s Burmese service, China Today is published in Burmese and widely distributed among Chinese expats, businesses and travel agencies.

The magazine often carries promotional articles about Chinese investment and projects in Myanmar and elsewhere in the region.