fredag 7. mai 2021

China can return stability to Myanmar and fix its image problem if it takes sides in the crisis

China has an image problem in  Myanmar. Rumours have swirled about whether Beijing’s top diplomat had any inkling, when he visited Yangon in January and met military chief Min Aung Hlaing, of the impending coup that would topple the elected National League for Democracy (NLD) government just weeks later.

Then came talk of nightly flights supposedly ferrying tech experts and equipment from Kunming to help the junta build a “Great Firewall”, like China’s, to shut down internet traffic and disrupt the budding civil disobedience movement that sprang up to oppose the military regime. Further rumours followed of Chinese troops supporting Myanmar security forces in putting down peaceful demonstrations. Chinese factories in Yangon soon went up in flames – though it remains unclear who set the fires. China’s muted reaction to the coup, and its continued shielding of the junta from sanctions at the
United Nations Security Council has surely fired this hostility.

It seems, however, that Beijing has not yet made up its mind on Myanmar’s coup. It has not lent decisive support to the junta, and has called for domestic political reconciliation. But now is the time for China to take sides, because a democratic Myanmar is a more reliable partner than the generals.