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Protesters against Myanmar’s junta burn the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Mandalay, Myanmar, on June 5 2021. Picture: REUTERS
Protesters against Myanmar’s junta burn the flag of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, in Mandalay, Myanmar, on June 5 2021. Picture: REUTERS

China says its policy towards Myanmar remains unaffected by the country’s domestic situation, bolstering support for a regime that has faced multiple rounds of sanctions from the US and the West after a coup four months ago.

Beijing would continue implementing bilateral projects in the Southeast Asian nation, Myanmar state broadcaster MRTV reported after a meeting between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told his counterpart Wunna Maung Lwin on Tuesday in the southwestern Chinese city of Chongqing.

“China’s friendly policy towards Myanmar is not affected by changes in Myanmar’s internal and external situations and remains oriented towards the people of Myanmar,” according a statement on the website of China’s foreign ministry. “In the past, present and future, China supports Myanmar to independently choose a development path that suits its national conditions.”

The regime is seeking recognition from other countries as Myanmar’s rightful caretaker government because it faces a contesting claim by a unity government set up by allies of detained civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The meeting comes a day after China hosted foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) in which Malaysia and Singapore deplored the slow progress in resolving the political crisis in Myanmar.

The National Unity Government’s foreign minister, Zin Mar Aung, said in an open letter to Wang that the regime “does not represent the people of Myanmar.” “Attempts to legitimise it as the government of Myanmar may harm people-to-people relations between the two countries.”

Myanmar’s security forces have killed more than 850 people and arrested nearly 6,000 others since they overthrew the democratically elected government on February 1. Civilian leaders, including Suu Kyi, have been detained and a renewed conflict with armed rebel groups has displaced tens of thousands of villagers.

While the US has led international efforts to punish the junta, its partners in Asia have been slow to follow suit, with China blocking any uniform sanctions at the UN Security Council. Countries have turned to Asean — a group founded on the principle of non-interference — to facilitate a resolution.

China has pledged to play a constructive role by offering support to Asean, which reached a five-point “consensus” on Myanmar in April that included an “immediate cessation of violence.” It also encouraged “all parties in Myanmar to engage in political dialogue and restart the process of democratic transformation,” the foreign ministry said in a separate statement.

China and Myanmar agreed to expedite several projects in the pan-Eurasia Belt and Road Initiative after Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to the Myanmar capital of Naypyidaw last year. There was also a concession and shareholder agreement for the development of the multibillion-dollar special economic zone and deep-sea port in western Rakhine State.

As of April, China was its second-largest foreign investor, behind Singapore, with $3.5bn worth of projects since the 2016-17 fiscal year, according to data from Myanmar’s Directorate of Investment and Company Administration.

The Financial Times last week reported that the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was open to funding projects in Myanmar even if the country doesn’t return to democracy. Bank spokeswoman Laurel Ostfield disputed the report, saying the newspaper misquoted vice president Joachim von Amsberg. “There is no correlation between Chinese foreign policy towards Myanmar and AIIB investment,” Ostfield said in an email.

In a further sign of diplomatic support from the world’s second-largest economy, Myanmar's army head and de facto leader Min Aung Hlaing met with the Chinese ambassador on Saturday. Chen Hai “stressed that the Chinese side has always cherished and attached great importance to the traditional friendship with Myanmar,” the embassy wrote in a Facebook post.

Bloomberg News. More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com


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