Assessments

In Myanmar, Beijing Gets a Leg up on the Competition

Zhixing Zhang
Senior East Asia Analyst, Stratfor
Jan 16, 2020 | 09:30 GMT
This photo taken on Oct. 2, 2019, shows fishermen boarding their boats at a small jetty on Made Island off Kyaukphyu in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

This photo taken on Oct. 2, 2019, shows fishermen boarding their boats at a small jetty on Made Island off Kyaukphyu in Myanmar's Rakhine state. Myanmar is somewhat wary about Chinese investments in places like Kyaukphyu, but there's little it can do to stem the tide.

(YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)

For China, there's no time like the present to foster closer links with a key country on its frontier. Amid China's push for better transport connections, tighter border control and deeper energy security to the south, President Xi Jinping will begin a two-day visit to Myanmar on Jan. 17. Negotiations regarding some megaprojects have sparked significant concerns about China's looming presence -- and its strategic intentions -- in Myanmar, but the country may find its options to push back significantly curtailed. Indeed, with Myanmar facing Western isolation over its treatment of the Rohingya and struggling to forge national unity, China's assistance is more essential than ever if Naypyidaw is to fulfill some of its domestic priorities -- namely, advancing a peace process with ethnic armies along the northern border, managing the Rohingya crisis and developing the weak Myanmar economy. Such a situation, naturally, is bound to put China in a...

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