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The influence of Myanmar’s military in US-China relations


Since February 1, the country of Myanmar (Burma) in Southeast Asia has been the focus of international media due to its military coup. How does this political development impact in the current outstanding US-China relations “battle”?

Myanmar Army (Image: Shutterstock)

There are two elements of this event that can be related to the recent US case:

  • One is Myanmar’s general election day (November 8), just six days after the US general election on November 3, almost at the same time;
  • The second is the silhouette of the coup in the US in the allegation of electoral fraud, described by the Chinese media as “coup Trump Myanmar version ”.

These issues are interesting to analyze.

Subtle differences in attitudes of the international community towards the military coup in Myanmar

Regarding Myanmar’s military coup, the attitudes of the international community vary widely:

  • Neighboring countries Thailand and the Philippines claim this is “Internal affairs”And does not intend to condemn;
  • The leaders of Britain and the European Union define the actions of the Myanmar army as “Military coup“;
  • The Biden administration of the US has criticized three times but did not mention “military coup “ and avoid using the sensitive term “election fraud“.
  • HThe United Nations Security Council stated that it was ready to meet to discuss but only mentioned that the cause was Myanmar’s military. “Reform of government” large scale.
  • While Western media simultaneously believed that the military coup in Myanmar affected Chinese investment and hoped that China would intervene, Foreign Ministry spokesman Uong Van Ban of the country had This greatest influence on Myanmar expressed indifference: “We have seen what happened in Myanmar and are learning more about the situation… We hope that all parties in Myanmar will handle disagreements in accordance with the constitutional and legal framework to maintain the maintain political and social stability. ” Predictably from the Chinese statement: Don’t expect China to agree to condemn Myanmar’s military actions before the United Nations Security Council.

China and Myanmar have close military ties

For a long time, the US and other Western countries have imposed high-pressure sanctions on Myanmar and they have almost no formal diplomatic relations with Myanmar. Myanmar’s main diplomatic country is China, and together with Cambodia it becomes the spokesman for China’s interests and staunchest ally in Southeast Asia. In addition to the large number of Chinese companies investing in Myanmar, China is also building oil pipelines there to help them escape their dependence on the Malacca Strait. For China, Myanmar is not only very important both economically but also politically.

  • Analysis: Who was really behind the military coup event in Myanmar?

During the Trump administration, the US Department of Defense discussed preliminary US-Myanmar military relations, providing Myanmar soldiers with training in humanitarian assistance, military medicine, and defense reform. This move immediately caused China to be on high alert. Last December, the Chinese online newspaper Hoan Cau (Huanqiu) published an article “The US wants to control the Myanmar army through cooperation to push Myanmar to leave China ”The article bluntly points out that the US sees the split between China and Myanmar as an important goal of its return to the Asia-Pacific strategy. The urgency of the US to promote military cooperation with Myanmar, for example inviting the Golden Cobra exercise with more than 20 countries, is intended to accelerate Myanmar’s separation from China.

After Aung San Suu Kyi became Myanmar’s supremacy, China still bet on both sides and continued to maintain close ties with the Myanmar military. Take for example the most recent year, on July 16, 2020, the Chinese media loudly reported that Chinese Ambassador Chen Hai (Chen Hai) in Myanmar had exchanged views with Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing of Myanmar Defense Forces on the development of China – Myanmar relations, especially emphasizing the support of the Myanmar military “Belt and Road” and the construction of the Myanmar-China Economic Corridor; Myanmar’s military adheres to the one China policy, supporting the Chinese government’s views on Taiwan, Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and Tibet issues; assisting China in safeguarding Hong Kong’s national security and long-term prosperity, saying that the Hong Kong issue is entirely China’s internal affairs, so other countries have no right to intervene. In mid-January of this year, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Myanmar, not only meeting with Myanmar President Win Myint, holding talks with Myanmar’s State Counselor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, but also meeting with the commander-in-chief. Min Aung Hlaing.

  • Aung San Suu Kyi’s double life

Chinese media comment on the Myanmar military coup

The above is a glimpse of China’s influence over the Myanmar government, does not mean that China is really manipulating this coup. But the comments of the Chinese media on Myanmar have unique points compared with the comments of the majority of the world’s media, especially the highlight in the discussion of election fraud. In the US election, the time before the inauguration of the US President on January 20, China’s propaganda apparatus, like the left-wing media in the US, was unable to discuss electoral fraud.

In China, Global Times Editor-in-Chief Ho Tich Tien seems to have the privilege of speaking on sensitive issues in sensitive times. Immediately after the military coup in Myanmar, he wrote “The Myanmar military coup has stirred up the Internet, why is it synchronized with the US political situation?“, One of the highlights is talking about the Myanmar military coup as an appropriate legal action”Myanmar Constitution ”.

According to the 2008 Myanmar Constitution, the Myanmar military does not accept the obligations of the civilian government, which is an independent military group outside of the political environment of the country, also “forces defending the country and defending the Constitution ”. Of course, Ho Tich Tien did not forget to emphasize that this constitution gives the military a special status, built under the direction of General Than Shwe as Commander of the National Defense Force of Myanmar. The second point is that this is the “Myanmar version” of the 59th US presidential election, starting the two sides similarly: After the election results, Mr. Trump and USDP (Union Solidarity Party and Myanmar Development) disobeyed that “cheating votes ”, but the USDP ‘plays cooler’ than Trump: they issued a statement on 11/11 asking for a re-election, and very quickly found “great support” from the Myanmar military.

The Chinese Caixin Magazine has published an article on the Internet “The Myanmar version of ‘Trump coup’, what is the direction of Biden”, the article focuses on election fraud: “The most dangerous thing is the widespread doubting about the fairness of the election, outside of the military-backed opposition party that is also present in some non-governmental organizations inside and outside Myanmar, and also. UN special investigator on human rights in Myanmar. International media and human rights organizations note the inability of millions of Rohingya to participate in the vote, many of whom are deprived of their basic civil rights ”; and finally linked to the American context: “Is this scene familiar in the 2020 US general election? It seems that not only the US has a dispute to rig the vote, but so does Myanmar! “

It does not seem difficult to discern the implication of China that if the United Nations and the US want to intervene, first of all think of ways to obey Myanmar, or think of ways to amend the Constitution. That may, of course, include the important thing: a government that relies on serious fraud to come to power, stop praising democracy and defend democracy in other countries.

Which side has the advantage?

Final analysis issue: Why does China want to be proactive in Myanmar at this point?

China had hoped that after Trump ceased to power, the Biden administration would return to China for its enthusiastic support. But the Biden administration is currently struggling, with massive internal conflicts and pressure to formulate policies. So at the Washington Peace Research Institute’s Jan. 29 video conference, Biden’s national security advisor Sullivan said: “Internal government means diplomacy, and diplomacy is also internal government”, “For America right now, the most pressing and far-reaching national security challenge is to clean up our own home ”. The implication is that if we want to handle external issues well, we must first deal with internal issues well, the focus is not on foreign policy adjustment. In an interview with NBC on February 1, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reiterated that China poses the biggest challenge facing the United States compared to other countries. The nature of the relationship between the US and China is complex, including confrontation, competition, and the opportunity for cooperation, so the US must handle its relationship with China wisely.

In the context of an unpublished policy on China, the Biden administration fell into a state of “chaos” in dealing with changes in Myanmar. According to the US press citing internal sources, the officials “dissatisfaction” On the timing of the Myanmar military’s action, internal American and White House officials have very different views on how to handle the situation in Myanmar, especially considering the situation in Myanmar as “coup”, because if the situation in Myanmar is defined as “coup” and cutting aid to Myanmar could push Myanmar closer to China. But if ignored, it is contrary to the US commitment to “promote the democratization of Myanmar ”. But public opinion has the view that it is because the US and other Western countries have criticized Aung San Suu Kyi too much for the past few years, so it has created an opportunity for the military to emerge. At the same time, some experts believe that the Myanmar coup provides an opportunity for China to increase influence.

Whatever measure the Biden administration took after that, in Myanmar’s upheaval, the US was undoubtedly weaker than China. But that could be good news for Taiwan, as Secretary of State Blinken shows that it will not upgrade Taiwan-US diplomatic relations to the state level, but from a geopolitical perspective and the Chinese political struggle. – The US defending Taiwan’s position from China is a short-term option for the Biden government.

Ha Thanh Lien
(UP Media empowers Vision Times to publish. Articles represent the views of individual authors).

See more:

  • He revoked CGTN license: China is “angry at cutting cutting boards” BBC

  • The “sugar-coated bullets” of Mr. Xi Jinping



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