but the pipeline is proceeding as planned.

from Spiegel International
Junta Takes Back Control in Burma
By Marc Hujer, Jürgen Kremb and Andreas Loren
[Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan]

excerpt from Part III:

"We hope that all parties in the Myanmar issue will maintain restraint and appropriately handle the problems that have currently arisen," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu breathed into the microphone, as if Burma had just experienced a minor marital quarrel.

But Beijing's actions in New York were not nearly as soft-spoken. Last week the Chinese ambassador to the UN voted against a proposed Security Council resolution condemning Burma. "We are not supporting the Burmese military, but rather stability," said a foreign policy advisor to the Communist Party and Burma expert in Beijing, seeking to downplay the embarrassing vote.

China has benefited for many years from the leaden calm that has prevailed in Burma. When the West slapped economic sanctions on Yangon after the 1988 massacre, the Chinese jumped in to fill the void. Relations have blossomed ever since. More than a million immigrants from throughout the People's Republic have already settled, more or less legally, in Burma.

For the Chinese, Burma is a land of rich prizes, including oil and natural gas, natural resources and timber. China mines nickel, copper and coal in Burma. According to the nonprofit organization Earthrights International, at least 14 Chinese companies are building hydroelectric power plants in the country. Trade between the two nations approached $1.5 billion last year. Beijing's state-owned energy groups plan to exploit oil and gas fields off the Burmese coast and have already signed agreements with the junta. Another project in the works calls for the construction of 2,380 kilometers (1,480 miles) of oil and gas pipelines from Burma's western Rakhine State all the way to Kunming, the capital of China's southern Yunnan Province.

Economic ties are already so close that the Chinese yuan is treated as legal tender, in addition to the Burmese currency, the kyat, in the northern border regions. Sections of the old royal capital Mandalay, with their Chinese shops, apartment buildings and shopping centers, could already be mistaken for neighborhoods in a Chinese city. Close to one third of Mandalay's residents are believed to be Chinese.

China is also providing Burma's generals with weapons and materials. The Burmese have already purchased about $2 billion worth of helicopters, aircraft, artillery guns, warships and tanks from their northern neighbor.

But by generously supporting the Burmese junta, the Chinese risk provoking the anger of the international community. With the Olympics less than a year away, it is not in Beijing's interest to appear as the protector of an inhumane regime, one whose atrocities are all too reminiscent of the brutal suppression of its own student uprising on Tiananmen Square in 1989. "It's a problem for us," officials in Beijing quietly admit.

To head off a potential conflict, the Chinese government facilitated a secret meeting in June between US diplomats and representatives of the junta in Beijing, where the Americans hoped to convince the Burmese to release opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Chinese officials also invited opposition groups to take part in informal talks.

But by the end of last week, Chinese diplomats were not convinced that the monks' uprising could cause the junta to fall from power. If it does, Beijing said it "hopes for a smooth transition." If the generals are driven out after all, said the Communist Party's foreign policy advisor in Beijing, "we will have no trouble in coming to terms with the Lady."

Of course, this would come at a cost to the Chinese. "If the Lady comes to power, the international economic sanctions will be lifted," the advisor said. "And then we will no longer be without competition in Burma."

1 comment:

Free Burma! said...

Free Burma!
International Bloggers' Day for Burma on the 4th of October

International bloggers are preparing an action to support the peaceful revolution in Burma. We want to set a sign for freedom and show our sympathy for these people who are fighting their cruel regime without weapons. These Bloggers are planning to refrain from posting to their blogs on October 4 and just put up one Banner then, underlined with the words „Free Burma!“.


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