In historic visit to Myanmar, China’s Xi Jinping pushes to build trade ties

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Myanmar today

china myanmar

Photo: Yohei Kanasashi/AP

To commemorate the 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Myanmar today for a two-day state visit.

The Chinese leader will attempt to kick-start Belt and Road Initiative projects in the country. Economic relations between the two states remain strong—China is Myanmar’s largest trade partner. Regardless, violent conflict and a refugee crisis have stalled a number of infrastructure projects, including the Myitsone dam project, halted in 2011, and an oil pipeline to China’s southern Yunnan province.

Xi’s success today hinges on his ability to assert Beijing’s diplomatic role in stabilising Myanmar, particularly on the Rohingya front. Although China shields its neighbour at the UN, where pressure is building for accountability over the refugee crisis, economic distrust between the two countries persists over fears of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy.

A comprehensive agreement or plan of action on the Rohingya crisis is the clearest way China will be able to dispel this distrust and solidify the country’s political role in Myanmar. An agreement—including more conditional financial aid from the Chinese to resettle Rohingya—would effectively serve as a fait accompli for Beijing and its desire to further intertwine Myanmar into its economic web.

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