covering burma and southeast asia
Thursday, March 30, 2017


A Prosperous Burma Would Benefit China

By David Arnott JULY, 2004 - VOLUME 12 NO.7


China’s stability would be strengthened if Burma were economically stable and prosperous. Thus it should increase efforts to work for the economic and political changes in Burma that would allow the country to receive international assistance.

The modernization of China initiated by Deng Xiaoping involved a shift in the conception of national power from a narrow military perspective to Comprehensive National Power, or CNP, currently seen as consisting of the “eight capabilities” of domestic economic activities, science and technology, foreign economic activities, social development, military, government regulation and control, foreign affairs and natural resources.

Recent public statements by Chinese leaders on international relations stress regional and global cooperation in the context of (economic) globalization and (political) multi-polarization. They also say that regional approaches are needed to tackle non-traditional security, or NTS, problems such as drug trafficking, other criminal activities and the trans-border spread of diseases such as SARS and HIV/AIDS. China sees its CNP as ever more dependent on collaboration with other countries and is involved in a large number of multilateral groupings and agreements—the World Trade Organization, or WTO, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Asian Regional Forum, Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) plus 3—and preparation for an Asian Free Trade Area (China-Asean).

Regional Disparity in China

Regional economic disparity between China’s rich eastern seaboard and the poor inland provinces like Yunnan is a major problem that has the potential to destabilize the country. For several years, and particularly since the launch of the Great Western Development Strategy (xibu da kaifa) in January 2000, Beijing and local governments in China have put considerable effort into reducing this disparity. In 2000, for instance, US $45.5 billion in development funds was poured into projects to develop this area. The undertaking has seen only limited success so far, partly because of the weakness of the Burmese economy.

THE TRUCK STOP in Jiegong, on the China-Burma border,
opposite Muse.

A major plank of China’s strategy for boosting its southwestern provinces’ fortunes is by integrating their economies with those of South and Southeast Asia through such structures as the Greater Mekong Subregion, or GMS. As an example, as well as exporting electricity to the eastern seaboard, Yunnan is to be wired into the planned Greater Mekong Subregion power grid.

For this planned integration to succeed there must be fast transport links and efficient bureaucratic infrastructure to facilitate trade with regional markets. This has become more urgent since China acceded to the WTO—competition from foreign goods following the scheduled reduction of tariffs and relaxation of non-tariff barriers is likely to damage Yunnan’s industrial base (reduced tariffs on cigarettes or leaf tobacco, for instance, could hurt its tobacco sector). In addition, unemployment could increase, with the restructuring of the state-owned enterprises which are the largest employers in the urban southwest.

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