News

Analysts: New Burmese Parliament to Look Closely at China Relations

Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi greets supporters as she leaves her National League for Democracy party following her meeting with newly elected lawmakers at the party headquarters in Rangoon, April. 7, 2012.
Burma's pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi greets supporters as she leaves her National League for Democracy party following her meeting with newly elected lawmakers at the party headquarters in Rangoon, April. 7, 2012.

Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy secured a landslide victory in Burma’s recent elections, and the opposition party will make its parliamentary debut in two weeks. Among the many questions the election results are raising is the possible impact they could have on Burma’s relations with its biggest investor - China.

China has long been a key ally of the Burmese government and, according to official estimates, has already pumped at least $15 billion in investments into Burma.  

But, as Burma - which is also known as Myanmar - has begun to enact reforms over the past year, releasing hundreds of political prisoners, holding talks with ethnic minority rebels, and easing censorship, it also appears to be trying to lessen China's influence on its economy.

"The China relationship was clearly a factor in the military government's decision to move toward democracy, but with Aung San Suu Kyi and sort of an opposition group in parliament, I suspect you'll see a lot more discussion about issues like that," Bower said.

Ernest Bower is the director of the Southeast Asia Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"We know from interviews with Myanmar leaders and the business community that there was a feeling of claustrophobia in the country related to China's dominance," Bower said.

Analysts say President Thein Sein's decision last year to call off the construction of a major Chinese hydropower project in northern Burma because of local opposition was in part an example of the desire to ease China's influence.

Originally, the Myitsone Dam was slated for completion in 2017 and was expected to provide energy-hungry cities in China with power to meet their ever-growing demands. Now, the fate of the project remains uncertain.

David Steinberg, a Burma expert at Georgetown University, says he expects China will continue to play a very important role in Burma's economy, but the Burmese president’s Myitsone Dam decision shows there are limits.

“I think it’s in China’s interest to play its cards very, very carefully. They didn’t on the Myitsone Dam, but they may have learned a lesson. They really didn’t believe that there was public opinion that could change the government in Myanmar, the government’s position. And they have found out that there was in fact that,” Steinberg said.

China should also be concerned, Steinberg says, about the impact too much investment in Burma could have on Burmese national sentiment. He says there have been anti-China riots in the past, and foreign control of the economy has long been a sensitive issue there.

“If they [the Burmese people] feel that the economy is once again under Chinese control, there could be a nationalist reaction. Already there is anti-Chinese sentiment growing in the country, and China recognizes the problem and must be careful,” Steinberg said.

Meanwhile, Burma is looking elsewhere for investment. In recent weeks, Burma has taken steps to loosen regulations for foreign investors in the country. This, Bower says, will not only increase investment opportunities, but will give Burma more options.  

"Clearly one of the objectives of the government in opening was to enact economic reforms that would follow the political opening so that countries could bring new technology and capital into the country," Bower said.

Analysts say Burma is very interested in making sure the United States and Europe are involved in that process and that the participation of ASEAN countries, Japan and Europe is broadened as well. But getting the investment into Burma from the U.S., as well as other countries, remains problematic because of sanctions.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs