Author: Zhou Shixin
Posted on: Global Times, April 27th, 2017
Despite significant political changes in Myanmar in recent years, leaders from the country and from China have maintained a high level of mutual trust, as reflected by frequent visits and the consensus reached on a number of issues.
In August 2016, Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi paid an official visit to China. In April this year, Myanmar President U HtinKyaw visited China, and the two sides issued a joint press communiqué saying that the two countries will continue to make the best use of their cooperation mechanism and will strengthen cooperation featuring mutual benefits in various areas. This indicates that the Sino-Myanmar relationship has entered a more stable and mature stage.
As one of the key partners in Myanmar’s foreign relations, China is the country’s largest trading partner and biggest investor. This is not just because China is Myanmar’s biggest neighbor, or that there are no territorial sovereignty disputes and that there are high complementarities in their respective economic structures; it is also because the governments and people in both countries have taken practical measures to effectively promote and maintain the bilateral relationship in consideration of their own interests and needs.
The comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries has made new achievements continuously, reflecting the fact that the strong bonds between the two countries could benefit bilateral economic cooperation. Myanmar supports China’s Belt and Road initiative, while China supports Myanmar’s development path based on its own conditions.
During the current period when globalization is being challenged by Western countries, China and Myanmar are still in need of globalization to push forward with their economic development and growth. In recent years, Myanmar has taken a number of measures to promote economic reform and opening-up, and has achieved some successful results. However, with the Myanmar kyat devaluing against the US dollar recently, prices have risen sharply, leading to increasing pressure in people’s lives and discontent with the government. Against such a backdrop, maintaining close cooperation ties with China has become vital for Myanmar.
Most of the investments made by Chinese companies in Myanmar have been successful, contributing greatly to Myanmar’s economic development and social progress. The completion of the Sino-Myanmar oil pipeline, from the scientific planning, signing of the cooperation agreement and project launch to the current operation, fully reflects the reciprocal nature of the project for the two countries. From the perspective of the trend, the prospects for Sino-Myanmar cooperation are promising in terms of geopolitical positions, capital, technology, management experience and market orientation.
However, the international community and ordinary people often pay more attention to some negative reports or unsuccessful cases, while ignoring many other successful cases. Although many of the Chinese companies’ projects in Myanmar were signed while the military government was in power, they were basically operated in accordance with international standards. It is because of this that the former Myanmar government only suspended the Myitsone Dam project instead of abolishing it, and there is still the possibility of restarting the project in the future. The economic cooperation process between the two countries is not only aimed at improving mutual understanding, but also serves to regulate each other’s behavior in the interaction process so as to avoid losses caused by irregular behavior which could have a negative effect on the sustainability of bilateral cooperation.
Of course, due to various reasons – such as the slow progress of the national peace process, immature social consciousness, interference from international non-governmental organizations and domestic civil society organizations, and a lack of confidence in opening up, attracting foreign investment and promoting win-win results – Myanmar is short of ability and experience in terms of governance, and its domestic investment environment is not very good.
However, with the deepening of Myanmar’s participation in the regional integration process, China and Myanmar have started to promote their trade liberalization agenda, fostering and enhancing the latter’s ability and experience in participating in the regional integration and globalization process. In this way, Myanmar can also enhance its ability to withstand economic risks and attract external investment, laying the foundations for upgrading Myanmar’s position in the international community.