China Myanmar Relations: 6 Month Outlook

In early July, China’s Foreign Minister arrived in Myanmar. This is China’s first visit to the country since its military overturned its democratically-elected government in a coup in February 2021. China’s top diplomat will join his counterparts from various Southeast Asian states for a Lancang-Mekong Cooperation meeting, a multilateral grouping established by China. The group aims to manage its water flow from hydroelectric and dam projects in various riparian Southeast Asian states. Myanmar’s military spokesperson announced that China’s attendance at the meeting was China’s recognition of the Myanmar junta’s sovereignty and power. However, Beijing has never formally acknowledged the junta’s legitimacy while refusing to condemn the coup. China’s attendance in Myanmar comes in the wake of increased violence in the country against China by pro-democracy resistance groups and India’s growing distrust of Chinese-Myanmar relations.

Key Judgement 1: It is highly likely that anti-junta armed resistance groups will continue to attack Chinese investment projects throughout Myanmar in the next 6 months.

  • Several sites of Chinese projects across the country are rumoured to harbour regime soldiers who attack civilians and commit arson in nearby villages.  (source)
  • In late June, regime troops that were harbored in the China Wanbao Engineering Co Mine reportedly entered a nearby town and tortured and dismembered the bodies of two civilian men. They additionally burned 70 homes in the village and held several villagers hostage (source)
  • Subsequently, armed resistance groups attacked the mine with explosives and destroyed its power cables. China refused to comment about the sheltering of regime troops in its project site. (source)

Key Judgement 2: It is highly likely that India will follow the China-Myanmar relationship very closely over the next 6 months

  • There are various reports that China wants to send trained guards to protect its projects across Myanmar. Similarly, these reports claim China has further plans for its projects in Pakistan, piquing the interest of India. (source)
  • The China-Myanmar Economic Corridor will give China access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Accordingly, this will enable China’s Navy to monitor Indian maritime capabilities, to the discomfort of India. (source)

Key Judgement 3: It is likely that China and Myanmar’s military regime will forge closer ties over the next 6 months.   

  • As Chinese projects in Myanmar are under threat of attack by resistance groups, China will likely seek the regime’s assistance in protecting its interests. (source)
  • According to ethnic armed groups across the China-Myanmar border, hundreds of Chinese nationals have entered Myanmar to protect Chinese sites from attacks. (source)
  • According to many official sources, including the United States Department of State, the military regime is suffering “serious losses” in its fight against armed resistance groups. Therefore, according to the Counselor of the State Department, the military is losing territory and suffering immensely. (source)

Intelligence Cut-Off Date: July 31st, 2022

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