The Case for China's Intervention in Burma
By MIN ZIN Saturday, February 6, 2010


In the aftermath of Burma's 2007 "Saffron Revolution" and the military's subsequent crackdown, China has been increasingly pressured to assume a larger role in helping to resolve Burma's crisis.

A gathering cloud of myth however, has formed with regard to Beijing's policy on Burma, indicating that China has limited sway with the military junta’s generals and that Burmese activists and their advocates in the West overestimated China's influence on the generals.

This view is simply wrong or, at worst, Chinese propaganda. Of course China has more power and influence on the generals than any other country. The question is whether the Chinese Communist government wants to use its leverage to facilitate change in Burma. It does not mean that China is the patron that pulls the strings, and the self-isolated, delusive Burmese regime is its puppet.

The generals are highly aware of China's overwhelming strategic weight over Burma and appear eager to diversify and reduce its dependence on China since the mid-1990s. The junta may manage to reduce its military and economic over-reliance on China, but China's political and diplomatic protection remains indispensable to the regime's survival. Moreover, China's influence over the ethnic cease-fire groups in northeastern Burma that borders China's southwestern province could complicate relations between two countries.

If Beijing chose an uncooperative policy toward Burma in the latter's handling of its ethnic groups, the regime's state-building effort would face a serious hurdle. Therefore, the regime has no choice (no matter whether its intentions indicate otherwise) but to rely on China for political and diplomatic protection and cooperation. In other words, Burma's dependency on China is the consequence––by default––of the junta's struggle for survival rather than its stated intentions, such as nationalism and Sinophobia.

Therefore, China has leverage not only in terms of its provision of carrots, but also in terms of the sticks it can wield to hurt the regime. But China has not used its stick to poke the generals toward change at least for two reasons: first, China does not want Western-style democratization on its southern flank; and second, Beijing does not want to be seen as a "threat" to its neighbors.

Although China wants to see economic reform taking place in Burma, China has almost no sympathy for Burma's democratic crusade and its advocates; Beijing considers them too close to the West. China does not have confidence in the opposition's capacity to maintain stability in the divisive nation. And more importantly, China has also gained unrivaled economic advantages by supporting the pariah regime.

The second reason for not using its leverage is related to China's geopolitical strategy that aims to undermine the feasibility and desirability of a US policy of containment mainly by forging solid working relations with its smaller neighbors and other major powers.

While China continued its program of economic and military modernization through the 1990s, it wants to minimize the risk that others, most notably the member-states of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean), will view China as an unacceptably dangerous threat which must be parried or perhaps even forestalled.

If China continued to meddle in Burma's affairs in the 1990s the way it backed Burmese communist insurgents in the late 1960s and 1970s, it would stir grave concerns in Asean. China would be viewed as a bully.

These concerns would coincide with the current South China Sea dispute between China and some Asean members over territorial claims and resources. China's leaders have decided to follow Deng Xiaoping's cryptic instruction: "Hide our capacities and bide our time, but also get some things done." (tao guang yang hui you suo zuo hui). China has adopted an opportunistic foreign policy of maintaining relations with any government that would remain friendly to China and serve China's security and economic interests, irrespective of that government's propensity for reform.

However, this policy of self-serving pragmatism appears to be more and more untenable for at least two reasons. First, it puts China in a difficult dilemma whenever the Burmese regime faces serious vulnerability in domestic power shifts. For instance, Beijing found itself in policy confusion when the opposition National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the 1990 multi-party elections.

During the Buddhist monk-led protests in 2007, China similarly faced an uneasy situation.

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MM Wrote:
To Myanmar Patriot 4
"We follow our king HM King Shwebomin II's principle of forgiveness and reconciliation"
Are you for real? For the record, the principle of forgiveness is not something that your fake, imaginary king came up with, it is one of the core Buddhist principle, in fact it is a basic human principle, for those of us that are human or humane.
And you can't blow someone head off and then ask for forgiveness and then keep blowing people's head off. There is a saying in Burmese right, Phonegyi htate khaut pee mha ma ka dot nae.
Also no one is advocating the break up of the Union. It is something that you people keep bringing up so as to keep this oppressive, dictatorship regime alive for more than four decades now.
All everyone wants is the rule of law and proper governance. In other words, peace, liberty, justice and the right to pursue happiness.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
"When Aung San and his delegation went to London to negotiate Burma’s independence, no delegates from the Frontier Areas were present. During the meeting, Clement Attlee, the British prime minister, insisted that Burma proper should not coerce leaders of the Frontier Areas to join the Union of Burma against their will."
The point is who is Attlee to tell us that ethnic brethren are being coerced? It was a very calculated and emotive and subtle use of phrase as a divide-and-disintegrate tool. Our country was a unitary kingdom; not even like the UK, composed of majority English, Scottish Kingdom, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Point 2. We simply do not have to adhere to Panglong. It was the root of our problems; so ditch it! It is the slave mentality of some ignorant Burmese activists to confuse between Panglong and the harsh nature of military government; worse when it is combined with communism/socialism.
Spain under right-wing fascist Franco was equally repressive—take note.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
Reply To MM Patriot 4 Wrote: 10/02/2010
"It is much sadder when your own brother with the gun is doing the beating and enslaving. Stop supporting the dictator. It is time for the military to start defending the people."
COMMENT:we do not condone any wrongdoing by anyone.Ask yourself who was killing whom in 1.The English Civil War 2.The French Revolution 3.The American Civil War.
In each of these conflicts, neither side asked for help from any alien power; they had to learn to forgive after fighting, without personal hatred but for a respective cause. WE DO NOT SUPPORT ANY DICTATOR BUT WE RECOGNISE WHO IS FOR SOVEREIGNTY AND THE TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF BURMA; we know they are not Panglongists/federalists/disintegrationists/balkanisers. We follow our king HM King Shwebomin II's principle of forgiveness and reconciliation for the sake of unity, peace, democracy and for the sake of future generations. Of course, the role of the military is to defend the people; but situations have to be right.

Aung Aung Wrote:
China is as stupid as the SPDC. It makes friends with tyrannies (Burma, Sudan, Zimbabwe and Iran) and doesn’t associate with democratic friends. China itself kills its own people without mercy.

With or without China’s support doesn’t make any difference. The SPDC will be gone with the people’s power within this year, if not in 6-8 months time.
Than Shwe knows about it better than any one. Keeping the election law in secrecy to date because he has no further tricks to add.

Old and sick, he realizes everything is hopeless. TS knows clearly time and the Burmese people are against him.
He is counting the days to be driven out of his seat. What concerns him most are his family members and if he has to report to the ICC’s “invitation”.
How can he avoid these issues? This is Karma.

Do you think 25 million people in the Irrawaddy Division, minorities, farmers, workers and Monks will say “yes” to the killer Than Shwe? It is daydreaming.

Tide Wrote:
Hi Min Zin - your habit of searching for role models never seems to stop. The way you interviewed Nelson Mandela was like worshiping God or a monk. That kind of habit and mentality will never see other possible perspectives.
Here is one link - see for yourself. Every country has its own interest. So don't be so naive and chuck our country into a spitting hole. Stop doing that.

Reply To MM Patriot 4 Wrote:
It is much sadder when your own brother with the gun is doing the beating and enslaving. Stop supporting the dictator. It is time for the military to start defending the people.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
How very sadly naive. When you invite an alien superior power to beat your own brother, the superior power becomes your master and you become his new slave.
In any case, the US is not going to sit tight. Besides, China will not adopt such an expansionist policy; no need. Is Kyaw joking? Or just being treasonous? Our internal problems need to be solved by all of us using logic and learning from other countries and from history.

N Wrote:
Kyaw, so what you are advocating is for China to use a proxy arm group to take over Burma and setup a puppet regime? I don't like the regime any more than you do but a civil war is not the solution.
We should be able to solve our own problems. It is time for the Burmese military to do what it was meant to do in the first place— defend the country from threats, both foreign and DOMESTIC; emove the dictator and return power to the people.

Kyaw Wrote:
The only way out is that
China supports the ethnic armies in
defeating the military regime and
setting up a genuine federal union with equal power and veto among the states
Then, China would get more and more benefit from a prosperouos and peaceful Southern neighbor.
With the Support of China, it can happen within Six months. It is that simple.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
Than Shwe was on the brink of launching offensives on UWSA and its Shan drug runners after driving out the Kokang ethnic Chinese last year.
And Bao You Xiang and Wei Hseuh Kang had packed their bags to run to China like Kokang Chinese did after their defeat.
Enter the Chinese dragon!
Wen Jiabao, Xi Jinping and lately Dabo from China met with the men in green at Naypyidaw.
And Than Shwe held back! Why?
The monk murderer has no shortage of guts, if I am not wrong.
He would bow to no one, much less Hans from China, I believe.
And then the US new policy on Burma gave him some food for thought, least to say.
This is the most opportune moment for Than Shwe to put paid to UWSA and Shan drug runners for their audacity to demand a fiefdom of their own on Burma's soil.
If this comes to pass, Than Shwe could be credited with upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity.
He could be a hero and earn a place in history if he plays the cards right and calls it a day, if he is smart.

This article is another misconception on China's Burma policy. At the UNSC,the Burma issue is dead on arrival. Unless there is another dramatic catastrophe in Burma, the UNSC won't do anything.
Burma's political status quo in the international arena remains unchanged for 2010. Both the policy of the US and China remain intact until the election is over. Policies from both camps will be determined by the outcomes of the 2010 election. If you think China will make a dramatic move on Burma, keep dreaming.

timothy Wrote:
It is not simple for China to manage Burma for its domestic and economic advantages. Than Shwe had given them unfettered access to the natural gas of Burma and natural ports for use of Chinese interest. He had also bribed Russia, India, Thailand with illegal contractual Memorandums of Understanding to the tune of billions of dollars worth of the country`s natural resources. They all benefit from the evil system of Than Shwe. Who could give them a better deal cheaply and illegally? It is a win-win situation for all in Evil Circles.
I genuinely believe that China will continue to support the Evil Empire of Than Shwe out of all difficulties because the junta is the best partner for the Chinese Communist regime. No hope for the defenceless poor of Burma at all so long as the UN refuses to reform the veto power system at the Security Council for successful law suite against junta`s crimes against humanity. HOPELESS.

Tom Tun Wrote:
I am in 100 percent agreement with Kyaik-Ka San. China superpower will slowly disappear or China will have to choose the destruction of the world if China keep on doing selfish foreign policy.
Chinese people may think the whole world populations are suckers, but China will only fool itself. The proof is that not many countries around the world do not approve of China's agressive economy and unethical selfish foreign policy.
For the Burmese part, the article does not describe the true interest of Burmese citizens.
The true interests of Burma are, (1) Peace for the country is long overdue, (2) By reasons and fairness, a just society is long overdue, (3) political dialogue with every group including regime and ethnic groups is overdue (4) as well as any decent countries around the world deserve a good government, the Burmese people are no less deserving of a decent, good governemnt. A strong economy can last only when the policies are clean of corruption.

ludu Wrote:
Min Zin is right. I always admired such a journalist who has experienced different things and places. He just tries to put some new fresh things to try to lead us to wider thinking. It is an uneasy encouragement for a future bright star. His view is so natural, so honest. But an honest guy is rarely welcomed in Burma world.

George Than Setkyar Heine Wrote:
Than Shwe’s foot-dragging antics, affect democratic reforms, have culminated in the super power flexing its muscles today.
China’s political and diplomatic protection have covered Than Shwe's butt since day one until today.

Communists refusing to lend a hand in keeping the wayward junta in place and line has finally backfired.

China's leaders embracing Deng Xiaoping's "Hide our capacities and bide our time, but also get some things done." (tao guang yang hui you suo zuo hui), an opportunistic foreign policy is serving well for China today no doubt.

Two drawbacks held back China reviewing its current policy – specter of junta withdrawing economic cooperation with China e.g. the gas pipeline deal specifically and US new policy on Burma dreadfully.

While China is in this dilemma US sells arms to Taiwan, invites Dalai Lama, kicks up trade frictions, cyber spying allegations etc.

They say two lions never cohabit in a cave.
Most probably China could be the one out of the cave in this case.

Ngal Hriang Wrote:
China! China! China! What are you thinking? Every big tree is down in Burma because of China. All tigers in Burma are killed because of China. Burma is destroyed by China. Enough is enough. Stop it.

Oo Maung Gyi Wrote:
US just put step in Burma and China is afraid due to its wrong step and business exploitation along with influence in culture and social fields.

Snr. Genral Than Shwe never trust China, just because he is in the wrong side of Burmese peoples desire so he is using China for his weakness to save his face from the international communities especially at the time of crucial situation at UN security council to favor Burma by using its veto.

Now Than Shwe does not care any more, because he knows there won't be another time to occur same situation in UN.

Now Than Shwe is making himself to close with US and even at the time of before election he might declares that one interim government to solve all problems facing now in Burma, so that he can become head of the interim government along with Aung San Su Kyi. Who knows his inner mind?

Every thing is possible in Burma. At present his best man Aung Thaung is facing problems concerning with financial matters related to his department.

Kyaik-ka-san Wrote:
Sino-US tension is embedded due to China’s abusive foreign policy and its misperception of its strength - economic and military. It is innocent to say cooperation in Burma issue will cool down Sino-US argument.

China deployed opportunistic foreign policy allying with tyranny countries, transformed them into pariah regimes, and finally to gain control, access resources and geopolitical advantages (DPRK, Burma and Sudan). Use Veto as blackmailing tool let Burma to rely on their political and diplomatic protection and cooperation.

China cannot continue bullying with inferior quality product and dangerous consumer goods worldwide. Also, it cannot continue to pretend that its growing global presence does not bring with it new obligations. Its overwhelming strategic weight can be used as stick and carrot leverage over Burma and others. But china will continue to be a first-class troublemaker and fake superpower until its leaders know how to behave internationally.

Aung Zeya Wrote:
I'm not sure that China (or any other neighbouring countries) want to change the status quo. They now have a monopoly on Burma's natural resources, and a captive market free from any Western competition. Would they really want Burma reintegrated into the international community and sanctions lifted? A wealthier Burma would make a bigger market for their goods, eventually, but I'm not sure that their businessmen think like that. They want to keep their current reign of exploitation (without any Western competition).

It's useless to wish other countries to do something. Why should the Chinese give up their stranglehold? As long as we continue to bicker among ourselves, our so-called neighbours will continue to eat our lunch and then some.

Eh-passika Wrote:
There is always a mistake in Burmese political
scenario that China would have some influence
on the Burmese top brass. NO. The military junta has only its own pragmatic interest. Furthermost in history, Burmese warring clans have Sinophobia, but not other.

tocharian Wrote:
What do you mean by problems with "Dalai Lama" and "allegations of cyber-spying". It's a no-brainer. The Chinese hate Dalai Lama and they were hacking into Google accounts! You seem to swallow all the Chinese news agency propaganda. How pro-Chinese are you? How come you live in the US and get paid in Berkeley? Why don't you move to your beloved Peking? You wouldn't be allowed to write articles like this in China! By the way, Peking views ASSK as more or less the Burmese version of Dalai Lama.

Myanmar Patriot 4 UMPF Wrote:
1.The author of this article reflects the slave mentality of some but a tiny tiny minority of Burmese with slave mentality.He is seeing the situation through the tinted spectacles of the West, forgetting the spirit of freedom of Burmese people.
2.There never was a Saffron Revolution; it was coined by Western journalists, particularly of English media and BBC. The number of monks involved were LESS than 5% of the total that makes up the Sangha.
3.Fighting for the second independence is just a fanciful cliche, just as fanciful as leadership of Mrs.Michael Aris,who is misusing her father's good name.Yes, we have problems -internal, but that's nothing like being under the alien colonizer, the English. Thibaw was son of a monk and under his short reign, Burma began to deteriorate; still our ancestors regretted the loss a king even though he was not legitimate.
4.To think that China dictates Burma internal politics is blind to Asian tradition of non-interference. Tibet is totally different

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bullet Helping Education to Keep Pace with Reform

bullet Resolving Ethnic Conflicts in Burma—Ceasefires to Sustainable Peace

bullet How the Game Was Lost

bullet Karens at the Crossroads

bullet Building Country Ownership in Burma

bullet Donors Rush Where Angels Feared to Tread

bullet Myanmar: On Claiming Success

bullet Ceasefires Won't Bring Peace

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