‘China is Myanmar's foreign policy priority’

  • Sutirtho Patranobis, Hindustan Times, Beijing
  • Updated: Aug 19, 2016 22:27 IST
Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping before their meeting at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Friday. (AP)

President Xi Jinping on Friday assured Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi that China will play a constructive role in promoting the peace process in her country, where ethnic violence along the border has neighbouring countries worried.

Xi “pledged that China will continue to play a constructive role in promoting Myanmar's peace process and work with the country to safeguard peace and stability in their border areas”, China’s official media quoted the President as telling Suu Kyi during their bilateral meeting. 

Suu Kyi is here on a high-profile five-day visit, her first to China after the National League for Democracy (NLD) government took over in March. She met Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday. 

Suu Kyi, considered Myanmar’s de-facto ruler, is also the foreign minister. President Htin Kyaw, her former close aide who was appointed head of state in March, is headed to India later this month. 

Experts say that under Suu Kyi’s guidance, Myanmar has adopted a pragmatic foreign policy whereby the government is trying to balance diplomatic relations with its two giant neighbours, India and China. 

But there is little doubt China is Myanmar’s foreign policy priority, a top Chinese expert told Hindustan Times. 

“The Aung San Suu Kyi-led NLD government has actually adopted a well-balanced foreign policy towards its neighbouring countries, including China and India,” said Dai Yonghong, director of the Centre for Myanmar Studies at the Sichuan University. 

“We can see from Suu Kyi’s visit to Beijing, which indicated the NLD government still regards China as the most influential neighbouring country. But at the same time, India is a rising power with a long border with Myanmar. So, later this month the Myanmar President is going to India, which means both China and India can have more role to play in Myanmar. 

“So at this point, we can see the NLD’s foreign policy is more pragmatic with greater importance attached to the neighbouring countries, which is very rational.” 

But Dai had no doubt which country Myanmar will look to for building infrastructure – China. “When we say that a well balanced policy (has been) adopted by the NLD government, it doesn’t mean they equally treat different neighbouring countries. China has the advantages of capital and technology, and infrastructure development. So this time Myanmar is trying to seek more Chinese role in its economic development,” he said. 

“India is also a very important country for Myanmar but India doesn't have the advantages that China has.” 

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