Suu Kyi’s China Visit: What They Say

By The Irrawaddy 11 June 2015

Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi met Chinese president Xi Jinping in Beijing on Thursday on the second day of her first official visit to China, undertaken at the invitation of the country’s ruling Communist Party.

At a time of recent tensions between the two countries, and with Burma’s national elections approaching later this year, many observers are weighing the significance of Suu Kyi’s five-day trip to Burma’s powerful neighbor and largest trading partner.

So, who is courting who? And what, if any, sensitive issues will Suu Kyi raise? Officials, journalists, activists and analysts give their take in this list of quotes compiled by The Irrawaddy.

What They Say:

“It is an important trip as Myanmar and China have a long border and as there are many problems along this border area.”

Nyan Win, National League for Democracy spokesperson (RFA)

“Madame Aung San Suu Kyi led the delegation of the National League for Democracy in the visit to China, which is an exchange activity between the Chinese Communist Party and a party of Myanmar. The Chinese Communist Party has maintained a long-term friendship with various parties in Myanmar. We hope this visit can deepen the understanding and trust between the two parties and push forward the cooperation between China and Myanmar in various fields.”

Hong Lei, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson

“If Aung San Suu Kyi were not to visit China, it would leave a [blank] spot on her credentials. And if you are China, you want to have at least a superficially good relationship with the potential future kingmaker of Myanmar.”

Yun Sun, a senior associate at Washington’s Stimson Center think-tank (Financial Times)

“Both internal and external factors make it hard for Myanmar to fall to the embrace of the US at the cost of abandoning China. Suu Kyi will become a good friend of China. She has made some positive remarks about China over the years, and also showed a pragmatic attitude in disputes concerning Chinese projects.”

Global Times, a state-run Chinese newspaper

“China’s interests are long-term and strategic, and, evidently, Beijing doesn’t want to put all its eggs in one basket. Better to pretend to be friends with everybody, just in case the political situation in Burma will change some time in the future.”

Bertil Lintner, veteran journalist and the author of several books on Burma (The Irrawaddy)

“Beijing is probably… calculating that Suu Kyi’s refusal to speak out on many human rights issues in her own country means she is unlikely to speak out about China’s denial of democracy and appalling human rights record.”

David Mathieson, senior researcher on Burma for Human Rights Watch (CNN)

“She certainly doesn’t want to be seen as anti-China, and I don’t see anything that suggests she actually is.”

Thant Myint-U, historian and author (Financial Times)

“Aung San Suu Kyi is getting on with the business of trying to win an election. She will be utterly pragmatic about what is at stake and cannot afford to indulge undue sentiment. She knows that China will play a mighty role in Myanmar’s future.”

Nicholas Farrelly, a Burma specialist at the Australian National University (AFP)

“Perhaps Aung San Suu Kyi can bring her influence to bear on ending the conflict [in the Kokang Special Region, bordering China]. In any case, it will be good to have her here to get to know her and explain our policy towards Myanmar.”

Lin Xixing, a Burma expert at Guangzhou’s Jinan University in China (Reuters)

“I hope she will talk about [human rights] while maintaining good bilateral relations between the two countries. Being a politician herself, it is likely that she will raise the issue politically.”

Bo Kyi, joint secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (The Irrawaddy)

“The sequence of visits likely reflects the fact that Beijing sees Shwe Mann as the strongest candidate for Myanmar’s next president, but recognises the rising power and influence of Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD in legislative politics.”

Christian Lewis, an associate with Eurasia Group (Financial Times)

“Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and in [a] Chinese prison, there sits another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.”

Hu Jia, a prominent Chinese dissident speaking about his close friend, writer and activist Liu Xiaobo, who has languished for years in a Chinese prison. Hu Jia hopes Suu Kyi will call for his release during her visit. (Reuters)