Myanmar coup: Muted response, but a quandary nonetheless for Beijing
New Delhi, Feb 02: The military coup in Myanmar is clearly an early challenge for US President Joe Biden who has threatened sanctions if the action is not reversed.
Experts say that the the powerful generals of Myanmar are trying to replicate the China model. It may be recalled that China's foreign minister, Wang Yi during his last meeting with Myanmar Army chief Min Aung Hlaing had Calle the two countries, brothers. Yi also praised the military's national revitalisation.
Even after the coup, China had a muted reaction. Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Wang Wenbin called Myanmar a friendly neighbour and urged all sides to properly manage differences. It must also be noted that as of last year, China was the biggest investor in Myanmar behind Singapore with USD 21.5 billion in approved foreign capital. Beijing also accounts for about a third of all Myanmar's trade.
When there was a barrage of condemnation from across the world on the couple, China remained largely muted. Myanmar was the last country that Chinese President Xi Jinping visited. During President Xi's January 17-18 2020 visit, China and Myanmar had signed 33 deals covering areas such as trade, politics, investment and people-to-people communications.
The main focus of the agreements appeared to be on the implementation of the CMEC which is akin to the USD 60 billion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), under which China looks to access Pakistan''s Gwadar port in the Arabian Sea.
The CMEC is also a giant connectivity project linking landlocked southwestern China to the Indian Ocean. The CMEC deal included the USD 1.3 billion Kyaukhphyu deep-sea port and economic zone.
Experts say Myanmar is of special significance to Beijing's geo-strategic plans. The Kyaukhphyu project concerns India as it provides a stepping stone for China to the Indian Ocean.
Wenbin said, "China is a friendly neighbour of Myanmar. We hope that all parties in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitutional and legal framework and uphold political and social stability," he said, parrying questions over reports that the coup was a setback to Beijing, especially to the USD nine billion China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which provides access to China to the Indian Ocean.
It would be interesting to watch China's approach in the next few days. The coup may have put Beijing in a quandary considering the fact that the country had warmed up to Aung San Suu Kyi in recent years. This despite China maintaining close ties with Myanmar's military and expanded its influence in the country during her long years of incarceration.
While China defended the military during the military junta rule, Beijing also backed Suu Kyi's government after suffered global outrage and alienation over the Rohinga issue.