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Chinese President Arrives in Burma for Talks - 2001-12-12

Chinese President Jiang Zemin arrived in Burma Wednesday, to strengthen already close ties between the two nations. Beijing has concerns about the talks between Burma's military government and the pro-democracy opposition led by Aung San Suu Kyi.

President Jiang Zemin arrived late Wednesday for a four-day visit to Burma. His talks with Burma's military government are expected to include such topics as economic cooperation and efforts to fight drug smuggling across their common border. China has long supported Burma's military government. Beijing maintains trade and investment links with Burma despite international criticism of Rangoon's record on human rights and its delays in political reforms.

Many other countries, including large donor nations, say political reform is necessary before they allow significant aid, trade and investment to flow to Burma.

The visit takes place as the Burmese government and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi have been holding secret talks, brokered by the United Nations, to press forward with political reforms.

Chayachoke Chulasiriwongs, a professor of international relations at Thailand's Chulalongkorn University, says Beijing probably wants to know if the talks show significant progress. "If Burma accommodates Aung San Suu Kyi at whatever level it allows, that means the influence of China will be diminished because Aung San Suu Kyi seems to represent Western influence in Burma," Chayachoke said. To mark Mr. Jiang's visit, Burma released more than 200 Chinese prisoners as a sign of goodwill. They are to be handed over to Chinese authorities at Burma's northern border.