China & Russia consolidated in Burma

N.B Chyoi / January 23, 2022

Protesters burning the China & Russia flags in Mandalay / CJ

Russia and China have consolidated their assets and cemented their economic co-operation further post coup in Burma whether its through the supply of arms or submarines, COVID vaccines or investments in the core sector like mining (jade or rare earth minerals) and increased stake in infrastructure & hydro-power projects.

As Burma Army’s two main companies Myanmar Economic Cooperation (MEC) and Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (MEHL) enjoys major stake in Mining and Hydro Power sector, it has eventually facilitated their entry.

Official acceptance of “Yuan” recently as trading or settlement currency by Army led Govt. (State Administrative Council) especially to promote Sino-Myanmar land border trade via Kachin and Shan state is another step in favour of China as it will facilitate the Chinese businessmen to expand their business network. Though it may generate employment for locals initially but eventually it will consolidate China’s stake in Burma.

Aung Sang Su Kyi led National League For Democracy had reservations over acceptance of Yuan and they were aware of the fact that accepting Yuan as settlement currency is a form of debt trap so the proposal was put in abeyance despite strong lobby behind the move. By doing so, China has managed to bring SAC under economic pressure and secondly it conveyed to west that dollar can be checked and challenged.

China had closed its borders with Burma post coup due to obvious reasons and even fenced the vulnerable entry/exits. But as demand for rare earth metals increased in China they opened the borders in Nov’ 2021 to resume imports of rare earth extracts. China has been defensive post coup in but despite anti Chinese sentiments, she has managed to consolidate it’s economic interests in Burma.

Anti Chinese sentiments were all time high in the initial days of protests in Burma but with the passage of time it has sublimed completely. People have realized that their dependence upon have increased as many international companies either winded up their business or sold it off at well discounted princes and Chinese encashed this opportunity and bought their business at well profitable margins. In simple terms, Chinese ownership in Burma has increased post coup. Most of the halted projects including Myitsone have resumed and Junta is providing security to Chinese manpower.

SAC has been kind enough to extend Russia a base in Rakhine and Russia too reciprocated the gesture by supplying Kilo class submarines. SAC has granted access to Russia to mine for rare earth minerals in Kachin. Second largest Peng Peg Steel Plant near Taunggyi in Shan State is being revived with help of Russian company Gazoprom. A rail road head is being planned to connect the site with main townships. Teams from both the countries have been visiting the site since June 2021 and required surveys are being taken.

It seems that those who have been instrumental in engineering the coup in Burma are now reaping the benefits whereas international community, UN or ASEAN have failed to register its presence. Similar is the fate of NUG and PDFs as most of them were guided by external forces who over estimated the strength of EAOs and Civil Defence Forces. Wars are fought on the ground not on the social media or through propaganda. There has been no coordination between the shadow govt and the PDFs as a result situation is horrible where Bamar is killing Bamar. Raising PDFs or providing arms to the civilians is not a solution rather it has been counter productive. Constructive dialogue can only resolve this crisis not armed resistance as PDFs can’t match the the capability, strength and armed power of a trained and regular force.

The situation in Kachin, Karen and Kayah have gone to worst. Number of internally displaced people (IDPs) have been multiplied. The essential supplies including food, medicines and fuel have been cut off purposely. The civilians have been targeted in Sagaing and Chin and number of villages have been burnt. PDFs-Junta confrontation has actually created a sense of insecurity and uncertainty among the common Bamars. The education system has almost collapsed since majority of university students have joined the PDFs and their return to normal life is out of question despite all assurances by Junta. A feeling of hatred and mistrust is getting deep.

N.B Chyoi is a Kachin lawyer and geopolitical analyst focusing especially on Burma, India and China.

The opinion expressed here is the author’s own, and does not represent the editorial policy of The Kachin Post.