Wednesday, June 17, 2009

China Adds ‘Democracy,’ ‘Economic Growth’ to Burma Policy

The Irrrawaddy News

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has told the Burma’s No 2 leader, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, on Tuesday in Beijing that China hopes the military junta will promote democracy in Burma.

According to a Chinese language news website,, Wen said in order to achieve Burma’s national reconciliation, safeguard national stability and economic development, Beijing hoped the military government would promote democracy.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Burma’s No 2 leader, Vice Snr-Gen Maung Aye, greet each other in Beijing on Tuesday.

Apart from the political situation in Burma, Wen also spoke of the nearly six decade long diplomatic ties between the neighboring countries as well as sustained bilateral relations.

The Chinese media reported that Maung Aye said during his meeting with Wen on Tuesday that “Paukphaw,” or deep friendship relation between Burma and China, have been deepen even more. He thanked the Chinese government for its aid for economic and social development in Burma.

Maung Aye also said Burma supported the one-China policy when he met with Premier Wen, the Chinese media reported.

Aung Kyaw Zaw, a Burmese analyst based on the Sino-Burmese border, said it was a positive step for Bejing to add democracy, national reconciliation and economic development to its old policy of “stability” in Burma.

“Wen Jiabao’s words of national reconciliation, stability and economic development to Gen Maung Aye reflected China’s current Burma policy,” he said.

However, other Burma observers are still skeptical about China’s policy on Burma, saying Beijing only focuses on its own economic and military interests in regard to Burma.

“I do not expect much out of this visit and certainly not Chinese pressure on Naypyidaw to adopt reforms,” Jeff Kingston, the director of Asian Studies at Temple University’s Japan campus, told The Irrawaddy.

“China wants stability on its border and even if it has some reservations about the SPDC's methods and capabilities, it shows no inclination to gamble on democracy or condemn human rights abuses.”

He noted that Burma’s powerful neighbors, China and India, are its largest trading partners and their dependence on natural resources and desire for a stable Burma trump their interests in a free and democratic Burma.

“The development of Burma is for their own interests,” he said.

During his China visit, Muang Aye was accompanied by ministers and seniors officials of Burma’s Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development, Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Energy as well as representatives from Burmese businesses.

According to Aung Kyaw Zaw, also recently republished an article by Swedish journalist Bertil Lintner on North Korea’s involvement in tunnel and underground facility construction in Burma.

Observers say Beijing is observing the relationship between Burma and North Korea, and does not want North Korea to help the Burmese generals achieve nuclear or missile capabilities, such as in Iran and Syria.

“Definitely, China will not want two more nuclear power countries on its northeast and southwest border,” Aung Kyaw Zaw said.

In last year, officials of Burma and North Korea exchanged a number of visits. Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win visited North Korea in October 2008. In November 2008, North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Kim Young Il stopped in Burma before he flew to Iran. The junta’s No 3 leader, General Shwe Mann, reportedly visited Pyongyang in April 2008.

During Maung Aye visit to China, Kim Jong Un, 26, the favored youngest son of the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong Il, also made a secret trip from Pyongyang to Beijing last week.

“It is interesting that Maung Aye's visit follows that by a delegation from North Korea, two pariah regimes that owe much to Beijing's support—economic, diplomatic and military,” said Kingston.

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