Modern China-Myanmar relations: dilemmas of mutual dependence

Type Book
Title Modern China-Myanmar relations: dilemmas of mutual dependence
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2012
Publisher Nordic Institute of Asian Studies
Contemporary internal diplomatic pronouncements and media reporting
on Sino-Burmese relations in both countries, in each of which
state control of the media has been ubiquitous, weave a positive web
of unadulterated support and friendship, while the foreign reporting on this
bilateral relationship in official and unofficial circles very often exudes similar
conclusions, but with a negative focus. So the China–Myanmar association
and the constant travel of high-level delegations back and forth on productive
missions are given prominence in their respective media, while the same
events prompt concerns that the relationship is detrimental to improved
governance or human rights in Myanmar and undercuts Western sanctions.
The regional strategic implications of this virtual alliance prompt quiet angst
in both informed and popular circles.
The knowledgeable observer is more skeptical. Informed Chinese recognize
the latent possibility in Myanmar for popular and ethnic unrest, potentially
affecting their southern frontier and their extensive national interests in
Myanmar. Burmese unofficially and soto voce raise questions about the intensity
of Chinese commercial expansion and population in their country, while the
government quietly softens dependence on China by buying military aircraft
and other hardware from Russia and elsewhere.
This volume is an effort to rectify misconceptions about the history and
nature of this important bilateral relationship, and to explore its nuances
and the resulting dilemmas for all concerned in the region and beyond, so
that policy options might more effectively be explored. Its thesis is that the
following, simplistic, common perceptions are erroneous – that:
• Myanmar is a client state of China; that Chinese influence is monolithic;
• China is so dominant that the current and any future Burmese administration
will be singularly dependent on its northern neighbor;
Steinberg book.indd 17 19/04/2012 16:04Modern China–Myanmar Relations
• every move by the Chinese is part of a calculated plan to advance their
power and interests in Myanmar;
• Burmese democratization is dependent on Chinese attitudes;
• Chinese perceptions of U.S. policy changes under the Obama administration
toward Myanmar are attempts to encircle China; and
• the previous U.S. policy of “regime change” in Myanmar did not succeed
because of Chinese support to the military junta.
Yet strong security relationships between the two states are evident based
both on potential and perceived external threats that each regards as inimical
to its national interests, and there are policy and bureaucratic associations that
influence internal actions on both sides, as well as informal working relations
that affect business and trade.

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