Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Will Yangon switch sides? Clinton visit worries China


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Beijing: Unnerved by US’ moves in Myanmar, long considered as China’s backyard, the official media here debated prospects of Yangon switching sides, in what it called the growing influence of US among Beijing’s close allies, including Pakistan.

The worries were prompted by US secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Myanmar, the first by a high-level US official in 50 years.

The state-run Global Times said in its editorial on Wednesday that Clinton’s visit raised speculations that the US is trying to win the former British colony over from China, since it appears that China’s neighbouring countries have become increasingly pro-US.

“It is certain that the US and China are competing for influence over Myanmar. The US has many advantages that China does not. These advantages help US ‘revive’ its long-frozen relationships with Myanmar in short order,” it said. “In fact, even in Pakistan, in which China has spent much effort, it is hard to say whether the US has less influence,” it said. Many Asian countries are now tipping between the US and China, however, a one-sided policy will not be a popular choice, it said.

The future of Myanmar will likely follow the same logic, it said, pointing to Yangon’s recent decision to halt the construction of USD 3.6 billion dam by a Chinese company.

“This incident made some believe that Myanmar is showing goodwill to the West at the expense of Chinese interest,” it said, raising a question over whether China’s policy of investing in military regimes rather than people was right. China for decades supported the military regime in Myanmar, ignoring the movement for democracy lead by Aung San Suu Kyi.

“Some people believe that China had been solely focusing on its relations with the Myanmar government and ignored the voices of the Myanmar people. This can also be spotted in the relations China has with some other countries,” it said.

Clinton is headed to Myanmar on Wednesday and the visit comes after a series of reformist moves, including the release of opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest.

“China should learn to balance its stakes between the government and the people of a foreign country, but the previous political environment in Myanmar made it virtually impossible for any country to establish good relations with both the government and the public,” the Times said.

Another write up in the same paper said Clinton’s visit to Myanmar will “further unnerve” China which has recently been “increasingly worried” that the aim of the new US Asian policy is to “isolate and encircle China”.

Chinese strategic experts believe that her visit to Myanmar, where China for decades supported the military regime, could put long term Chinese investments including the gas pipelines in deep trouble. On Wednesday, Myanmar is the pivot of China’s grand strategy to achieve its economic growth goal, Li Xiguang, director of International Center for Communication, Tsinghua University said in his write up in the daily.(PTI)


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