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How China "Lost" Myannmar

Sun, April 3, 10:45am to 12:45pm, Washington State Convention Center, Floor: 2nd Floor, Room 205


When the administration of President U Thein Sein assumed power in Myanmar in March 2011, the international consensus was that the country had no closer bilateral relationship than the one with the People’s Republic of China. Yet by June 2015, the People’s Liberation Army conducted live military drills on the Sino-Myanmar border in an apparent resort to coercive diplomacy. Why have bilateral ties plunged to these depths, arguably the lowest since at least the 1980s? To answer this question, the paper focuses on rising nationalism as a factor in Myanmar’s foreign policy towards the PRC, which has led the government in Naypyidaw to resist China on a growing number of issues significant to both countries. It will argue that this nationalism did not only emerge with, but certainly has found greater expression since Myanmar’s rapprochement with the United States and the advent of the democratic transition. The paper will demonstrate this in relation to three issues: China’s plans for a transportation corridor through Myanmar; China’s role in the country’s peace process, and, in particular, with respect to the 2015 war in the Kokang region.


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