2011:Are Improving US – Myanmar Relations Bad for China?

This article was posted on hundreds of PRC discussion boards over the past week; its origin is not clear.

Is the Warming in U.S. – Myanmar Relations Very Disadvantageous to China?


U.S. policy towards Burma is changing radically.  U.S. President Obama on November 18 at the East Asia Summit in Indonesia said that he decided that Secretary of State Clinton would visit Burma next month, the first U.S. Secretary of State to visit Myanmar in 50 years.

Obama said that on November 17 he spoke with Aung San Suu Kyi on the telephone.  She said that she supported U.S. contacts with Myanmar to promote democracy.  Obama said that Secretary Clinton during her visit would support Myanmar’s democratic reforms, human rights, and national reconciliation.  But Obama also warned that although Myanmar is clearly making progress, it still needs to deepen its reform if it is to establish a new relationship with the United States.

Many foreign policy analysts said that for Secretary Clinton, this brief visit to Burma is a “big springboard for defending its rights in the Pacific region”.  These big noble words of friendship for Myanmar are really aimed at “re-configuring the distribution of rights in Southeast Asia”.  International opinion considers that “the real reason for the big change in the American attitude is “in order to surround and contain China.  There are analysts in Myanmar as well that believe that considering that the U.S. is “across the board returning to the Asia-Pacific region”, claiming that the U.S. would suddenly change its attitude towards Burma for the sake of supporting reform is much too simple an explanation.

The Associated Press reported that U.S. officials deny this trip is aimed at China, and stress that will exchange views with China about U.S. – Myanmar relations.   However, this trip has already made the world see that the U.S. is strengthening its diplomatic offensive in SE Asia to contain China and may even be thinking of digging a hole to undermine the foundations of the Chinese wall.

According to reports,  Myanmar, which has been isolated by western sanctions for many years, has relied upon a long time upon China. Yet this was disrupted when the Myanmar military government last year held elections and established a new government that in fact it still controls, started a trend of stepping up the pace of political reform and reducing reliance on China.  Myanmar has already, on the pretext of going along with public opinion, astonished the world by stopping a big hydroelectric project funded by China.

The Nanyang International Commerce News [Nanyang Guoji Shangbao]  pointed out that Burma is quietly becoming a new arena of competition among China, India and the West.  This is making China – Myanmar relations more complex.   Myanmar  – U.S. relations are getting warmer.  Some Chinese scholars believe that this U.S. trip to Burma, just like U.S. increased military involvement in SE Asia, is aimed at strategic containment of China.

Some scholars believe, however, that long-term “DPRK-style” political isolation has already made Myanmar a political burden for China and so that normalization of Burma’s international relations is good for China too.

Prof.  Zhou Yongsheng of the China Foreign Affairs University said that although Myanmar is poor it has an important strategic position.

The scholar Shi Yinhong of the Department of International Politics at the Institute of International Relations pointed out that relaxation of tensions in Myanmar, both domestically and in its foreign relations, does not necessarily run counter to China’s own national interests.  If Myanmar were to continue to remain completely isolated, it will become another North Korea and so be a continual problem for China.















About 高大伟 David Cowhig

Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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