China’s ‘laissez-faire’ approach toward Myanmar’s coup puts its own interests at risk, says analyst

Anti-coup protesters maintain placards as they protest in opposition to the navy coup Saturday, February 20, 2021, in Yangon, Myanmar.

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China’s “laissez-faire” approach toward Myanmar’s military coup might damage the Asian large’s strategic and financial interests within the Southeast Asian nation, mentioned a political threat analyst.

In distinction to robust condemnation and sanctions by Western powers — together with the U.S. and the European Union — China’s response to the Feb. 1 coup and the violence that adopted has been extra muted. Beijing has been cautious and is emphasizing the significance of stability.

“But while China may be happy to deal with whoever wields power in Naypyidaw, it is increasingly clear the chain of events the coup unleashed could threaten its interests,” Gareth Price, senior analysis fellow at the Asia-Pacific program of British assume tank Chatham House, said in a March note.

Naypyidaw is the capital metropolis of Myanmar and one of many hotspots for anti-coup protests. Security forces have used more and more violent techniques to suppress the demonstrations, killing greater than 550 civilians, reported Reuters.

If the navy is compelled to again down, it might lead to a extra pronounced anti-China tilt, threatening (China’s) strategic interests.

Gareth Price

senior analysis fellow, Chatham House

Demonstrators, outraged over Beijing’s obvious lack of concern for these killed in protests, attacked Chinese-run factories in Myanmar final month, the Associated Press reported. In response, Beijing urged Myanmar to “ensure the safety of life and property of Chinese businesses and personnel” there.

“China’s frustration with the risks facing its economic interests indicates that the coup has become a major test for the already complex Myanmar-China relationship,” Kaho Yu, senior Asia analyst at threat consultancy Verisk Maplecroft, mentioned in a March report.  

Myanmar-China relations

China is a serious investor in Myanmar, a frontier Southeast Asian nation which shares one in every of its borders. Myanmar can also be an necessary a part of President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative.

“In general, Beijing expects investment in Myanmar to contribute to its energy security, trade and stability in its neighbourhood,” mentioned Yu.

“China maintains that an economic slowdown in its neighbourhood would result in social instability and security threats, which would in turn threaten the political stability of Chinese border provinces such as Yunnan,” the analyst added.

The latest available data by Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration confirmed that authorized overseas investments from China had been round $139.4 million from October 2020 to January this yr. Myanmar’s monetary yr begins in October.

The authorized Chinese investments had been exceeded solely by Singapore’s, which totaled round $378.3 million in the identical interval, the information confirmed.

In phrases of commerce, China is the highest vacation spot for Myanmar’s exports and the most important supply of imports into the Southeast Asian nation.

But Myanmar’s significance to China extends past economics, mentioned Price of Chatham House.

“The oil and gas pipelines running through Myanmar diversify China’s sources of supply and helps avoid using the Malacca Straits, a hotspot for piracy,” he mentioned. “And the development of ports and overland connectivity between China and Myanmar also help facilitate a greater Chinese presence in the Indian Ocean.”

China might assist finish the coup

But any feeling on China’s half that it’ll proceed to be Myanmar’s main companion no matter who’s in cost could also be a “misjudgement,” mentioned Price.

“If the military is forced to back down, it may result in a more pronounced anti-China tilt, threatening (China’s) strategic interests,” he mentioned.

Instead, Beijing might assist finish the coup — a transfer that may threaten its interests in Myanmar within the quick time period, however will doubtless advance them in the long run, Price mentioned. Myanmar’s generals don’t have any intention of ceding energy however will battle to carry on to it with out China’s help, he mentioned.

“As its global role expands, China should be learning to differentiate between various types of authoritarian government and judge its response accordingly,” mentioned Price.  

“China needs to be aware that a ‘one size fits all’ policy of non-interference will not win many friends, and any it does win are likely to be of the less salubrious kind.”

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