Anti-military regime protesters outside the Chinese Embassy in Yangon on February 15 / The Irrawaddy
By Aung Zaw February 20, 2021
China feels on the defensive. Facing daily protests outside the Chinese embassy in Yangon, Ambassador Chen Hai insisted on Monday to local media that the current situation in Myanmar is not what China wants to see. As public anger in Myanmar grew towards Beijing over its perceived support for the military regime, he claimed that the National League for Democracy and the Tatmadaw [Myanmars military] maintain friendly relations with China.
Since the military staged a coup to overthrow the elected government, Beijing has followed developments in Myanmar closely. Beijing is in constant contact with Chinese diplomats in Yangon and regime officials in Naypyitaw.
Meanwhile, protests outside the Chinese embassy continue to escalate. Why? The initial trigger was China’s move with Russia to block a United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the coup.
Rubbing salt into the wound, shortly after the military takeover, Chinese Communist Party spokesperson The Global Times downplayed the coup as an adjustment in the power structure, describing it as a major cabinet reshuffle. The move appeared to respond to the generals’ complaint to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi weeks before the coup that the Myanmars general election on November 8 was tainted with electoral fraud.
Since then, China has endorsed a watered-down UNSC statement expressing deep concern over the coup and expressing support for the country’s democratic transition. But Beijing and Moscow continued to defend the military regime at a recent special session of the UN Human Rights Council, insisting that seizing power from the democratically elected government was an internal matter.
Now, the Chinese are accused of sending IT experts to help the regime build an Internet firewall; the allegations were fueled by the arrival in Yangon of suspicious Chinese flights.
Chen rejected the allegations, saying: These are completely absurd and even ridiculous accusations. However, on the ground, protesters claim that without help from China and Russia, Myanmars’ army would not have the capacity to disrupt internet connections, build a firewall, and conduct surveillance. digital.
Old and bad memories have returned to haunt many Burmese citizens. A year after the military brutally crushed the nationwide uprising in 1988, Myanmars rulers found allies in the region, as China and several other neighboring countries voiced their desire for the regime to succeed.
In fact, Myanmars leaders were the first to express their solidarity with Beijing after they cracked down on protesters in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
The remarks of then-brigadier general Khin Nyunt, who at the time was Myanmars’ chief of intelligence and secretary 1 of the Public Order Restoration Council, were quite significant. We sympathize with the People’s Republic of China, as unrest similar to Myanmar last year [recently also] erupted in the People’s Republic, he said in 1989.
Two years later, in 1991, China became the first country to sell weapons, jet fighters, frigates, and other major military hardware to Myanmar since the junta took power, cementing the smooth relationship between the two governments.
The CDM challenge in Xi
Neither the coup plotters nor the ousted Myanmars rulers have dared to challenge the Chinese president, but the growing civil disobedience (CDM) movement has exposed China’s long-standing greed, resource exploitation and political interference in the country. Myanmar.
Months before Myanmar held its general elections in 2015, President Xi Jinping made the bold decision to invite then-opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to Beijing and receive her in the Grand Hall of the People. The United States and many Western leaders have also welcomed it to their capitals.
In 2020, Xi visited Myanmar to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties, with the Chinese leader making his country’s southern neighbor the first stop on his well-choreographed diplomatic journey for the year.
In a signed opinion piece published in Myanmar state newspapers, Xi said China wants to write a new chapter in the two countries’ long friendship.
At the time, visiting Chinese officials said they respected Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and his political position. They also said that compared to the notoriously corrupt generals who ruled the previous regime, the Chinese found the state councilor to be pragmatic and believed that she would keep her promises on Chinese-funded projects in Myanmar. At the same time, the Chinese have also complained that several projects funded by China under the government of Daw Aung San Suu Kyis were not launchers and worried about the growing influence of the West on its government and Myanmar.
Indeed, China’s geopolitical, economic and strategic interests in Myanmar are currently the subject of much debate, with critics claiming that Myanmar is returning to China’s orbit, even as Myanmar struggles to maintain its neutrality. and its independence.
One thing is certain: many Burmese citizens, including some military generals, have developed a deep fear of China.
In any case, China’s support for Daw Aung San Suu Kyi displeased the generals, although the Chinese are doing their best to maintain stable relations with the men in uniform.
However, the military suspects that through the Daw Khin Kyi Foundation, a charity created by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and named in honor of his mother, the Chinese, and some international organizations based in the West, including billionaire George Soros Open Society Foundation, funded the 2020 National League for Democracy election campaign.
The military is currently investigating the foundation’s finances in relation to foreign funding; this is expected to lead to more charges against Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
Arm the rebels
Tracing the public comments and interviews with military leader Major General Min Aung Hlaings over the past two years, we can see that he has sometimes targeted China with implicit criticism. Speaking to media in Russia in July, he called for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and asserted that terrorist groups exist because of the strong forces supporting them. So who, exactly, are these powerful forces he is referring to?
Many believe his comment was aimed at China, which the Myanmar military suspects continue to supply arms to ethnic rebel groups along the Myanmar-China border. (These rebel ethnic groups are in China’s pocket; proof of this is given in the many statements they made when the Xis plane landed in Myanmar in 2020.)
Indeed, the generals of Myanmars are wary of the influence of China on the ethnic rebels. In fact, Chinese authorities held a meeting with the leaders of some insurgent ethnic groups in the north just days before the coup in Myanmar. This shows that both the Chinese and the ethnic insurgents knew about the coup in advance.
It is easy to imagine that in the coming months, General SNR Min Aung Hlaing will approach Beijing to urge rebel forces from the north to come to the negotiating table, where the coup leaders want to demonstrate that they can achieve something the Daw Aung San Suu Kyis government could not: peace. Ethnic groups have remained calm since the coup; The Kachin Independence Organization issued a vague statement calling for calm, but the wait-and-see attitude of armed groups has sparked some public anger as the CDM movement spreads.
The point is, China will side with the Naypyitaw regime.
Read the Chens statement. He said that the National League for Democracy, chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has good relations with China and is committed to jointly promoting the building of a Sino-Burmese community with a common future, the economic corridor. China-Myanmar (CMEC) and other practical cooperation with the Chinese side. We are keeping an eye on the situation of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and others. The UN Security Council press release reflects the common position of the international community, including China.
These are Chinese projects in Myanmar.
We know from history that you should not trust China. But the people of Myanmars, including the youth and those on the streets as part of the CDM, want Beijing to take their side.
The CDM has put China in the limelight and in so doing has damaged, once again, China’s image locally and globally. The sad fact is, no matter who is on the throne in Myanmar, Xi wants his Belt and Road Initiative projects to move forward; this is China’s priority.
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