Where will Sino-Myanmar relations go under the US-Indo-Pacific strategy

Qin ruijing,Chen feiyu

Trump, as a member of the Republican Party, has been tit-for-tat against former Democratic President Barack Obama since the day of his campaign. Although there is no competitive relationship between them, Trump had always attacked Obama’s global strategic deployment from time to time during the campaign. In March 2017, Trump’s Secretary of State announced in a high-profile that the period of U.S. Asia-Pacific Rebalancing is over. In fact, the game around the U.S. Asia-Pacific strategy has not only become the game of American domestic politics, but also affected the diplomacy over the world, especially the Asia-Pacific region. After Trump proposed the Indo-Pacific strategy, the US’s strategic pivot went further west. From the geopolitical point of view, the Indo-Pacific strategy has formed a strategic triangle led by the United States, including Australia, India, and Japan. The concept of this regional alliance is actually based on powerful countries. Therefore, China-Myanmar relations have actually acquired spaces compared with the Asia-Pacific Rebalancing period. But on the other hand, the Indo-Pacific strategy does not mean that U.S. giving up the Asia-Pacific region, but a product of changing the pivot and reshaping its influence in this region.

The Impact of US-Indo-Pacific Strategy on Sino-Myanmar Relations

Since the United States lifted economic sanctions against Myanmar in 2016, Western countries have followed the pace of the United States and launched many cooperations with Myanmar. However, the sweet time do not last long. With the resignation of the Obama administration, the United States is not as willing to promote its so-called democratic revolution in Myanmar. Coupled with the fact that the NLD led by Aung San Suu Kyi was fully aware that standing on the opposite side with the military government could not really achieve the political transformation of Myanmar, so they began to compromise.

From the perspective of political level, Aung San Suu Kyi’s attitude change is more obvious. The political reconciliation process within the Burmese government after the U.S intervention has not went to the expected track. Aung San Suu Kyi was also aware of the problem during the reform process and actively adjusted Myanmar’s foreign policy. Since 2017, the long-lost cooperation between China and Myanmar has increased. In April 2017, Burmese President U Htin Kyaw visited China and the two sides had closely consulted on issues related to the construction of the “Belt and Road” Initiatives. In May 2017, Aung San Suu Kyi came to China to participate in the “Belt and Road” Summit Forum, which once again demonstrated the importance the Myanmar government attaches to the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative. In September 2018, Myanmar established the “Belt and Road” committee, and Aung San Suu Kyi personally served as chairman. In January 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar and China-Myanmar relations won a new milestone. Various signs indicate that since the implementation of the US-Indo-Pacific strategy, Myanmar has clearly realized that the US has not been as strong as the US-Myanmar relationship in the Obama era. However, Myanmar itself is at a critical point of reform and development, and needs a sustained and stable economic environment and political support. Therefore, on the basis of the principle of equidistant diplomacy, China’s gravitational role in Myanmar prevails at this stage.

From the economic perspective, China is still Myanmar’s largest bilateral trading partner. Not only is the trade relationship getting closer, but the economic relationship between China and Myanmar is also undergoing a structural upgrade. After the Myitsone incident, Chinese enterprises have made great efforts to improve social impact assessment and environmental impact assessment, and promote environmentally friendly investment. Including future projects such as the Kyaukpyu Deepsea Port Project, they have unanimously followed the environmental and social assessment priorities. China’s aid policy to Myanmar is also continuing to develop. China’s aid strategy is expanding from short-term, partial aid to systemic, continuous aid. Although China’s foreign aid system is still lacking in influence and effectiveness compared to Western countries, through years of learning and experience accumulation, the Chinese government’s assistance to Myanmar has basically proceeded from people’s livelihood.

Summary

Judging from the current international situation, the US strategic shift has alienated relations with Myanmar to a certain extent. The Indo-Pacific Strategy emphasizes the triangle relationship between India, Australia and Japan, and on this basis deepens cooperation with regional powers such as the Philippines, Vietnam and South Korea. Obviously, the US-Indo-Pacific strategy also has the meaning of containing China, but Myanmar, as a country with uncertain political situation in the region, has very delicate relations with the US. On the one hand, the cooperation between the NLD government and the United States is very deep, but due to changes in the international situation and geopolitical considerations, the NLD government also needs to handle relations with China in the form of equidistant diplomacy. On the other hand, Myanmar’s general election is approaching. If the NLD government wants to maintain the competitiveness of its parties in the election, it must have strong political achievements. In fact, the United States’ enthusiasm for supporting the Myanmar’s NLD government has a cooling trend compared to before, and it has not deliberately attracted Myanmar to participate in its Indo-Pacific strategic deployment. At the same time, China has always attached importance to the “friendship between China and Myanmar” and regarded Myanmar as an important partner along the “Belt and Road” initiative. It has not deliberately alienated Myanmar because of the pro-American color of the NLD government, nor has it used any Political tactics with chauvinism put pressure on Myanmar.

However, although China-Myanmar relations have shown a steady and positive trend, the deep-rooted political ties between Myanmar and the United States still exist. The democratic politics in Myanmar is deeply influenced by European and American trends of thought, and many policies are drawn from the examples of European and American countries. Myanmar, which is in a period of political transformation, is currently facing two major problems, one is how to achieve domestic political reconciliation, and the other is how to handle relations with major powers. It is foreseeable that in the future, Myanmar’s domestic and foreign issues will still be dealt with in an eclectic manner, and the good offices of China, the United States, and Myanmar will continue.

Qin ruijing, Scholar, Yunnan Academy of Social Science, P.R China; Chen feiyu, PHD. Scholar of Shanghai International Study Universty