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Myanmar-China Brotherhood : Securing the Energy for China

By Morentalisa Hutapea – On the 2nd and 3rd June 2010 China’s Premier Minister, Wen Jiabao visited Myanmar in relation to his visits to several other state visits to Japan, Korea and Mongolia. According to the official press, the visit was related with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar. During the two days visit, Wen Jiaobao announced the Myanmar-China oil and natural gas pipeline project. This announcement supported the public’s opinion about an ‘energy security agenda’ behind his visit to Myanmar.[1]

China-Myanmar Relationship: Some Background Information:

For Myanmar, China has been its most important neighbour. China and Myanmar share 2227 kilometres of border, which makes the border with China, the longest border in Myanmar. Political relations remain strong for Myanmar as Myanmar was the first country that acknowledged the independence of China. This political relation was strengthened in 1954 when the People’s Republic of China and Burma signed a joint declaration on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. These five principles are (1) mutual respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, (2) mutual non-aggression, (3) non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, (4) equality and mutual benefit, and (5) peaceful coexistence in developing diplomatic relations and economic and cultural exchanges.[2]

Just as the China-North Korea relation, China plays its role as a big brother for Myanmar, where China has been so long providing Myanmar with development and security aid. China has been the protector for Myanmar’s generals to secure their power. In the economic sector, China is one of the most important trading partners for Myanmar. Currently, China is Myanmar’s third largest trading partner and investor after Singapore and Myanmar. Up to January 2010, China has invested $1.848 billion in Myanmar, or 11.5 percent of Myanmar’s total foreign direct investment.

Meanwhile, for China the relations with Myanmar are closely related to several issues. The first is about the human security in the line of Myanmar’s border with China. Since both of the countries share a long border, the instability of Myanmar will directly impact China, at least the southern part of China. The impact of this vulnerability became obvious when the Myanmar army attacked rebels from the ethically Chinese Kokang minority group in August 2009. This attack forced more than 37,000 refugees to flood into China’s Yunnan province and prompting a rare admonishment from Beijing. [3]

In the economic sector trade plays an important role for shaping the relationship. Besides providing a market for China’s product, Myanmar also provides special access route for China to reshape the ancient ‘Silk Road’ to link its trade with countries like Bangladesh and India and Western Asia. This route will enable China to distribute its manufactured product in a cheaper way.

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