What Xi wants in Myanmar may not be what he gets

If there were any doubts around China’s thinking about where to direct its money and influence in Southeast Asia, they were dispelled by the recent announcement that Xi Jinping would visit Myanmar on 17 and 18 January, the first state visit by a Chinese leader to its southern neighbour in 19 years.

China is not missing a beat trying to put its foot on Myanmar’s resource wealth, as well as pushing ahead with plans for the China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), even in the face of the Rohingya tragedy, which has seen the Myanmar military drive more than 700,000 Muslims out of resource-rich Rakhine province. China is the country’s biggest investor, with more than US$20 billion in projects on line. Two-way trade with China in 2018 was about $12 billion, making up one third of Myanmar’s trade.

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Michael Sainsbury