Chinese leader Xi Jinping just wrapped up a two-day visit to Myanmar from January 17-18, the first trip by a Chinese head of state since Jiang Zemin traveled to Burma in 2001. Xi’s visit notably occurred in the 70th anniversary year of China-Myanmar diplomatic relations and further cemented bilateral relations, which have been in general extremely positive since the West turned away from the embattled country in light of the Rohingya migrant crisis that erupted in 2017. In Naypyidaw, Xi and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi signed 33 agreements related to infrastructure development, trade, manufacturing, and special economic zones (SEZs).
Xi and the Chinese Communist Party now hope to put bilateral ties on a more permanently secure footing. Beijing had long shielded Myanmar’s junta from international scrutiny at the United Nations and backed the abusive military regime during the 1990s and 2000s when it was estranged from the West. But when the previous government of President Thein Sein began to reform the country’s political institutions and open the doors to global investors, the Obama administration in the U.S. responded with deft diplomacy and high-level visits, suspending economic sanctions in 2016.