China is intensifying efforts to regain influence in Myanmar as its long-held dominance founders in the face of a transformation in its former army-ruled neighbour, the experts say.
Observers say long-time ally Beijing had assumed the end of junta rule was merely cosmetic and has been left stumbling to define its role amid nervousness over the growing influence of foreign rivals.
The relationship between the Asian giant and its neighbour is under the spotlight this week with a visit to China by President Thein Sein.
The trip includes talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping to set out future ties and comes at an “important” time,
according to an interview with China’s ambassador to Myanmar Yang Houlan, published on the embassy website Wednesday.
Yang said the two nations were faced with a “new factor” including the removal of US sanctions and activity by “outside forces”, “some of which do not want to see the healthy, smooth and rapid development of Sino-Myanmar relations”.
The visit underscores that Myanmar “recognises the importance of the relationship with China”, said Derek Tonkin, former British ambassador to several Southeast Asian countries.
That would have been taken for granted just two years ago when Myanmar was still comfortably within Beijing’s sphere of influence.