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China-Myanmar ties at a 'critical juncture'

Publication Date : 12-12-2013


Cooperation between Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw should comply with Myanmar's development plans and benefit its people, since the country's political reform offers equal opportunities to every nation, observers said.

Experts made the observations as Vice-Premier Liu Yandong was in the country on Wednesday to attend the opening ceremony of the 27th Southeast Asian Games.

"Neutrality and equilibrium will be the fundamental diplomatic guidelines for Myanmar and many other Southeast Asian countries to maximise

their strategic interests," said Guo Jiguang, a researcher on Asia-Pacific studies with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"China needs to maintain a good momentum of bilateral relations, no matter who wins the next presidential election. China should keep boosting mutual trust," he said.

On Wednesday, the vice-premier hailed the traditional "paukphaw" (fraternal) friendship between the two nations while meeting Myanmar President U Thein Sein.

"Both China and Myanmar stand at a critical juncture of development. The two countries should deepen pragmatic cooperation and make progress on important projects," Liu said.

"Myanmar will take the rotating chair of Asean next year. China would like to work with Myanmar to facilitate greater development of Sino-Asean relations," she said.

Thein Sein appreciated China's assistance and said Myanmar will continue to pursue friendly relations with China and boost overall cooperation regardless of the domestic and international situations.

U Tin Oo, Myanmar's ambassador to China, on Wednesday called China "one of the important countries in the region that is providing necessary assistance to Myanmar in its democratic and economic reform".

"China's continued cooperation will help support the success of Myanmar's reform process," he said.

Guo, the researcher, said Chinese investment is essential to Myanmar's development, given that Beijing has experience on how to improve the economy and people's livelihoods.

China has been Myanmar's biggest trading partner for years with bilateral trade reaching US$6.97 billion in 2012 and US$5.6 billion in the first eight months of this year. A total investment volume of US$14 billion has made Beijing the largest foreign investment source.

U Aung Naing Oo, director-general of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, said now is the best time for Chinese entrepreneurs to invest and develop in Myanmar, as its government has been improving the investment environment.

"Strategically located and rich in natural resources, Myanmar is the most convenient channel for China to the Indian Ocean. Chinese enterprises can make use of this corridor to sell competitive products worldwide," he said.

Political reform
Analysts said that Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw have fostered an interdependent relationship, instead of the usual misconception that Myanmar relies solely on China.

Myanmar has been engaged in sweeping economic and political reform since 2010, with the goal of building a modern industrialised nation. In 2012, the country enacted a foreign investment law, and it has launched "special economic zone" legislation.

Forty-one remaining prisoners of conscience in Myanmar were released on Wednesday from prisons across the country under a fresh presidential amnesty order, according to official sources.

Myanmar last freed prisoners of conscience on Nov 15, when it released 69. The government has promised to release all political prisoners by the end of the year.

However, experts also warned about risks in Myanmar's investment environment, which poses a challenge to the confidence and enthusiasm of Chinese business communities.

Bi Shihong, a professor at Yunnan University, said social unrest and drastic changes more often than not undermine Myanmar's investment environment and long-term development.

In 2011, Myanmar suspended the Myitsone hydropower project on the Irawaddy River, creating huge losses for a Chinese company.




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