N.B Chyoi / July 15, 2021
China had pushed Belt & Road Initiatives (BRI) into Bangladesh in 2016 and both agreed on “strategic partnership”, targeting infrastructure development including Railway and Special Economic Zones (SEZs).
Bangladesh took Chinese initiatives with pinch of salt and put the sentiments of the local populace above the development. As a result, some projects were shelved at nascent stage and the local authorities cancelled the contracts awarded to China Communication Construction Company (China Govt Enterprise)and blacklisted it over bribery charges.
Similarly, China entered into Burma under CMEC in 2018. Prior to that China engaged in Copper mining at Letpadaung and Jade mining at Hpakant, as well as the hydro-power project at Myitsone Dam. There had been series of protests, loss of lives over these projects but these projects were never cancelled as Governments in Burma whether it was Junta or NLD never dared to scrap the projects as Chinese have been greasing their palms.
Secondly, Bangladesh never allowed Chinese venture into Deep Sea ports anticipating Chinese strategy of expanding these deep ports into military bases in future. Sonadia deep port sea project was partially shelved. On the other hand Burma leased out Kyaukphyu deep port to Chinese despite knowing its strategically importance for military purpose.
The building of SEZ as well as rail link from Yunan to Kyaukphyu will ultimately serve Chinese interest. The Oil and Gas are being extracted and sent to Yunan. Why Burma’s successive Governments’ allowed China to take away our natural resources? It was an arrangement or political compulsion?
Bangladesh evaluated the impact of BRI initiatives in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, devised her own stand to counter it. Burma too needs to wake up and raise voices against this plunder of our natural resources.
Although China has been propagating that BRI comes with “No strings attached” but actually it comes in other forms which are more detrimental like cultural invasion and it is irreversible. Tibet and Xinjiang are live examples where the indigenous Tibetans and Uighurs have been subjected to inhuman treatments.
Bangladesh despite a developing economy, sent a signal across the world that independence and sovereignty of the country remains paramount not the investment. In Burma, it seems that money is above sovereignty and independence, so we are muted.
he stand taken by Bangladesh over BRI initiatives has been remarkable and not succumbing to China’s pressure or warning recently over Bangladesh’s stand on Quad, itself speaks of the courage. It is first time that an Asian nation has shown courage to resist China’s dominance openly. Bangladesh handled the macro economic management effectively and they managed to evade the Chinese debt trap. Whereas the recent coup in Burma has pushed us 20 years back, economy is on the verge of collapse, we are heading towards debt trap laid in an organized way but still we are looking towards China?
China has not become powerful overnight, thanks to west rather, who had been promoting China since late 70s, off course westerns miscalculated the Chinese moves. Chinese moved towards Capitalism but kept Communism and Imperialism intact and consolidated it. Now entire Europe called China as Systematic Rival.
Bay of Bengal is an emerging ground for new alliances, Burma and Bangladesh have long historical and cultural relations, even if Bangladesh manages to plug China, Burma can be an alternative. Burma and Bangladesh should never allow someone else to show diving skills in their waters.
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.