China–Myanmar relations

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Sino-Burmese relations
Map indicating locations of People's Republic of China and Burma



China–Myanmar relations (Chinese: 中缅关系; Burmese: မြန်မာ-တရုတ်ပြည်သူ့သမ္မတနိုင်ငံဆက်ဆံရေး) refers to the international relations between the People's Republic of China and Myanmar. China and Myanmar have active bilateral relations with each other. However, recently, the relations between China and Myanmar have faced some problems due to recent ongoing conflicts with ethnic Chinese rebels and Tatmadaw near the border, as well as Burmese recent hostilities against Chinese.

The relationship between China and Myanmar, while much closer and warmer than relations with China's other Southeast Asian neighbor, Vietnam; also faces difficulties due to the effects of Chinese-sponsored debt-traps[1][2][3] and Chinese-backed militants in northern Myanmar territories.[4][5][6]


Both two countries share a close blood and linguistic link, when the Burmese and Chinese are both parts of Sino-Tibetan language family and peoples.

The Yuan dynasty saw the First Mongol invasion of Burma and Second Mongol invasion of Burma. The Qing dynasty fought the Sino-Burmese War. Large numbers of Panthays from China settled in Myanmar. British-ruled Burma agreed to keep on paying tribute to Qing China after the British conquest of all of Burma.[7][8]

The Burma Road was built to China during World War II.


Founding of the China-Burma Friendship Association in 1952

Burma was the first non-Communist country to recognize the Communist-led People's Republic of China after its foundation in 1949.[9] Burma and the People's Republic of China formally established diplomatic relations on June 8, 1950. China and Burma signed a treaty of friendship and mutual non-aggression and promulgated a Joint Declaration on June 29, 1954, officially basing their relations on the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.[9][10] However, Burma maintained a neutralist foreign policy in the 1950s and 1960s. Anti-Chinese riots in 1967 and the expulsion of Chinese communities from Burma generated hostility in both countries.[10] Relations began to improve significantly in the 1970s. Under the rule of Deng Xiaoping, China reduced support for the Communist Party of Burma ("CPB") and on August 5, 1988 China signed a major trade agreement, legalizing cross-border trading and began supplying considerably military aid. Following the violent repression of pro-democracy protests in 1988, the newly formed State Peace and Development Council, facing growing international condemnation and pressure, sought to cultivate a strong relationship with China to bolster itself; in turn, China's influence grew rapidly after the international community abandoned Burma.[10][11]

However, after the 2011 reform, Myanmar has started to shift away from China, leaving China a big concerns over the decreasing influence of China in Myanmar. And following with the Chinese rebels and Tatmadaw conflict in Northern part of Myanmar, China has to vow to keep Myanmar and China remain close tie until the solution is found.

Commercial relations[edit]

Chinese President Liu Shaoqi with Ne Win in 1966.

Bilateral trade between China and Myanmar exceeds $1.4 billion.[12] Chinese imports to Myanmar typically focus around oil, steel and textile products, while Myanmar imports range from natural rubber to raw wood.[12] China is providing extensive aid and helping to develop industries and infrastructure in Myanmar and aims to be the chief beneficiary from cultivating Myanmar's extensive oil and natural gas reserves.[13] It is one of the chief partners of the Burmese regime in the project to renovate and expand the Sittwe seaport and has received rights to develop and exploit natural gas reserves in the Arakan region.[10] China has offered loans and credit to the military regime, as well as economic aid and investments for the construction of dams, bridges, roads and ports as well as for industrial projects.[9][10] China extensively aided the construction of strategic roads along the Irrawaddy River trade route linking Yunnan province to the Bay of Bengal. Chinese firms have been involved in the construction of oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380 km (1,480 mi) from Myanmar's Rakhine State to China's Yunnan Province.[13] China National Offshore Oil Corporation and the China National Petroleum Corporation hold important contracts on upgrading Burmese oilfields and refineries and sharing of production.[10] PetroChina is in process of building a major gas pipeline from the A-1 Shwe oil field off the coast of the Rakhine State leading to Yunnan, accessing and exploiting an estimated 2.88 to 3.56 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.[10][14] A proposed Sino-Burmese oil pipeline off the western coast of Myanmar may permit China to import oil from the Middle East, bypassing the Strait of Malacca.[10][13] There have been protest against Chinese oil projects.[15]

China Power Investment Corporation's investment in the $3.6 billion Myitsone hydropower station on the Irrawaddy River has hit a snagged in early October 2011 as Burmese government suspended construction due to local residents' concern about the human, environmental impact and perceived benefits.[16][17] Most of the power generated will be exported to Yunnan province in China and local residents claimed the lack of community feedback in the planning process.[17] China's government is stating Myanmar will get $54 billion USD in tax revenue, shared profits, free electricity.[17] At stake is China's huge financial stake in the project and also risk to other big projects China has in the country.[17] China Power Investment Corporation stated only five villages with a total of 2,146 needed to relocated. The firm has provided affected villagers with two storey houses, 21 inch televisions and a 100,000 Burmese kyat compensation which is only about $140 USD[17]

Strategic relations[edit]

China is the most important supplier of military aid and maintains extensive strategic and military cooperation.[9] Since 1989, China has supplied Myanmar with jet fighters, armored vehicles and naval vessels and has trained Burmese army, air force and naval personnel.[9][10] Access to Myanmar's ports and naval installations provide China with strategic influence in the Bay of Bengal, in the wider Indian Ocean region and in Southeast Asia.[9][10][14] China has developed a deep-water port on Kyaukpyu in the Bay of Bengal.[14] It has also built an 85-metre jetty, naval facilities and major reconnaissance and electronic intelligence systems on the Great Coco Island,[10][18] located 18 kilometres from India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, giving China capabilities to monitor India's military activities, including missile tests.[10] However the building of intelligence systems on the island is widely regarded as a myth today and the Indian forces recently denied their existence [19] China assists in constructing a naval base in Sittwe, a strategically important sea port close to eastern India's largest city and port, Kolkata.[18] Beijing also funds road construction linking Yangon and Sittwe, providing the shortest route to the Indian Ocean from southern China.

China and Russia once vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution designed to punish Myanmar.[13][20] In recent years, China has shown a lack of willingness to back the Burmese government and has attempted to stabilize the political situation in Myanmar.[13]

In recent years, Myanmar has moved to develop strategic and commercial relations with India, with which it shares a long land border and the Bay of Bengal. Increasing trade and military cooperation with India and developing bilateral relations with Japan and within the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) shows a shift in Myanmar's foreign policy to avoid excessive dependence on China.[9]

After the Kokang incident in August 2009 which gained international media interest,[21] some experts questioned its impact on China–Myanmar relations, which were considered to be strong.[22] Bertil Lintner stated that Myanmar was prioritizing internal conflicts over its ties with China,[23] however some Chinese analysts, such as Shi Yinhong, played down the relationship between Myanmar and China, saying "They're not great friends. They don't listen to what China says."[23] China had urged Myanmar to ensure the stability of the border area and protect the interests of its citizens in Myanmar.[24][25] The Burmese Foreign Ministry later apologised to China about the incident, but also ran a story on the Dalai Lama in the government newspaper the Myanmar Times, the first mention of him in the state controlled Burmese media for 20 years.[26] Chinese officials were said to be "furious" and "extremely upset" over not being forewarned about the offensive on the border.

In June 2015, Kokang rebels announced a unilateral ceasefire citing "the Chinese government's strong calls for restoring peace in the China-Myanmar border region" among other interests. The announcement coincided with Aung San Suu Kyi's meeting with Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China in Beijing.[27]

In May 2018, China condemned Myanmar's government after violence in northern Myanmar erupted. The violence was started by a China-backed militia, rebelling against Myanmar. The militia sought to get more Burmese lands and eventually join as part of China.[28] In October 2018, militias backed by China against Myanmar expelled numerous clergies in northern Myanmar, sparking outrage throughout Myanmar.[29] The Chinese-backed militia also threatened northern Myanmar residents from expressing their religious beliefs, even inside their homes.[30]

In August 2018, various international organizations found a staggering rise in Chinese projects in Myanmar, which may cause ‘debt traps’ against Myanmar, the same way it caused a debt-trap against Sri Lanka.[31] Despite these reports, Myanmar's government continued with the Chinese loans and programs in November 2018, causing wide public concern.[32] In February 2019, Myanmar pursued more Chinese-sponsored loans and programs.[33]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Alfred Stead (1901). China and Her Mysteries. Hood, Douglas, & Howard. pp. 99–.
  8. ^ William Woodville Rockhill (1905). China's Intercourse with Korea from the XVth Century to 1895. Luzac & Company. pp. 5–.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g Yangon still under Beijing's thumb (February 11, 2005). Accessed 2008-05-30.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Sino-Myanmar Relations: Analysis and Prospects by Lixin Geng, The Culture Mandala, Vol. 7, no. 2, December 2006. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  11. ^ Shambaugh, David (2000). Power Shift: China and Asia's New Dynamics. Nazrul Institute. p. 218. ISBN 0-520-24570-9.
  12. ^ a b China-Myanmar trade increased in 2007 (December 9, 2007). UPI. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  13. ^ a b c d e Chinese dilemma over Burma (25 September 2007). BBC. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  14. ^ a b c India and China compete for Burma's resources (21 August 2006). World Politics Review. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  15. ^ Perlez, Jane; Feng, Bree (May 18, 2013). "Under Pressure, China Measures Its Impact in Myanmar". The New York Times.
  16. ^ Guo Aibing (Oct 4, 2011). "China Power Investment Says Myanmar Dam Halt Is 'Bewildering'". BLOOMBERG L.P.
  17. ^ a b c d e Jonathan Watts (4 October 2011). "China angry over Myanmar's decision to suspend work on £2.3bn dam Beijing threatens legal action as Myanmar halts dam because it is 'against the will of the people'". London:
  18. ^ a b Myanmar shows India the road to Southeast Asia (February 21, 2001). AsiaTimes. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  19. ^ "Chinese Whispers: The Great Coco Island Mystery". Retrieved 18 April 2018.
  20. ^ Russia, China veto resolution criticizing Burma (January 13, 2007). Washington Post. Accessed 2008-05-30.
  21. ^ "Who is Chinese? The Upper Han". The Economist. 2016-11-19. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2017-01-02.
  22. ^ Guan, Ng Han (August 31, 2009). Myanmar refugees begin to return home from China. Associated Press.
  23. ^ a b Petty, Martin; Blanchard, Ben (September 1, 2009). Myanmar ethnic offensive tests vital China ties. Reuters.
  24. ^ China urges Myanmar to safeguard border stability. Xinhua. August 28, 2009.
  25. ^ China, Myanmar share responsibility to maintain border stability: FM. Xinhua. September 1, 2009.
  26. ^ Jagan, Larry (September 1, 2009). Border war rattles China-Myanmar ties. Asia Times Online.
  27. ^ Mcluaghlin & Zaw (June 11, 2015). Under pressure from China, Kokang rebels declare Myanmar ceasefire. Reuters.
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