China’s deceptive moves

N.B Chyoi / January 30, 2022

Muse-Ruili border gate

Burma’s State Administrative Council (SAC), the Army led govt in Burma had succumbed to Chinese pressure to resume imports mainly rare earth minerals at the end of last year. The shortage of rare earth minerals had led to price hike in China as after the coup in Burma, Chinese closed the land border customs in view of increased anti Chinese sentiments in Burma post coup though Chinese claimed that the borders were closed as per Covid protocols.

In the last quarter of 2021, the Yunan based business lobby built pressure upon the local govt to resume import of rare earth minerals to meet the demand and to control the rising prices. Finally, the Chinese Government and SAC agreed to resume Sino Burma trade through three land customs viz. Chin Shwe Haw in Shan State, Kampaiti and Laiza in Kachin state.

As the primary objective was to clear rare earth stuff lying at the Burma side they managed to accomplish it and afterwards Chinese amended the import policy to check flow of goods to be imported, hike in custom duties and revision of daily wages of Chinese manual labor force in the border townships. All these changes have finally impacted the exporters from Burma. China actually wanted to import just rare earth minerals, nothing else and that was the catch behind resuming the trade.

Burma’s export to China is mainly commodity based or stuff which is perishable fruits, vegetables & meat . As there were no buyers at the price asked, exporters lost almost everything due to waiting at the check gates for buyers. Burmese merchant associations have alleged that it is a deliberate attempt by the Chinese lobby to reduce the import price and increase their profit margins.

The traders from Kachin and Shan in northern Burma who mainly deal in commodities suffer. China has enforced strict measures at the land border custom gates to regulate the prices to book profit. China is aware that since the coup, Burmese farmers or businessmen have limited options for export and moreover Burma’s export to China is mainly agriculture products and has its own demerits due to limited shelf life.

Official acceptance of Yuan by SAC as settlement currency for land border trade is also in favor of Chinese only as Chinese will regulate Yuan- Kyat rate and there will a black market for Yuan now operated by Chinese.

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

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