PLA drill to safeguard China’s interests
China started a live-fire drill in Southwest China’s Yunnan province near theMyanmar border on Tuesday after having notifiedMyanmar in advance. The military exercise, which involves troops from the People’s Liberation Army and Air Force, is in accordance with accepted international practice and the agreement reached between China and Myanmar, the PLA ChengduMilitary Area Command said onMonday.
China’s ForeignMinistry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the military exercise is “a regular activity within the scope of the military’s mission”. Since the misjudged bombings byMyanmar Air Force pursuing rebels in northernMyanmar in March andMay killed some people in Yunnan, it was expected that China would take appropriate measures to protect its citizens living in areas near its border withMyanmar.
Despite all the diplomatic efforts to rebuild trust between the two countries, includingMyanmar ForeignMinisterU WunnaMaung Lwin’s visit to Beijing in April when he officially apologized for the March bombing, the China-Myanmar border area is still restive. For instance, the bombing onMay 14 in Yunnan’s Zhenkang county reportedly injured at least five Chinese nationals.
Regarding the clashes betweenMyanmarese government forces and the northern rebel group, called theMyanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, China has made it clear that under no circumstances should its sovereignty and territorial integrity be violated, or its people or their properties harmed. In this sense, theMyanmarese government, who now plays a dominant role in the domestic conflict, should shoulder the major responsibility for the recent bombings.
Emphasizing its policy of non-intervention inMyanmar’s internal affairs and hoping thatMyanmarese people would reach a peaceful understanding to end the violence, China has maintained restraint to avoid complicating the already volatile situation in northernMyanmar. More importantly, China refuses to support either side in the conflict, though even its slightest involvement could make a world of difference forMyanmar.
However, ifMyanmar’s internal conflict continues to spill over into its territory, China will be given to understand that neither theMyanmarese government nor the northern rebel group respects China’s legal interests and its request to maintain peace. In fact, China is holding the military drill to warn both sides engaged in theMyanmarese conflict not to violate its territorial integrity.
Unlike other Chinese drills, no specific goal or the end date of the ongoing drill in Yunnan has been announced, hinting that Beijing could adjust them and deploy more troops depending on the actual situation along the China-Myanmar border. In other words, a regular mechanism for safeguarding China’s border security could come into being shouldMyanmar’s internal conflict worsen.
Moreover, the PLA’s training program near the China-Myanmar border highlights the importance of China’s military and diplomatic reform at a time when security threats in its neighborhood are changing. China needs a pragmatic military policy to enable its military to immediately respond to emergencies and complicated situations such as the one along its border withMyanmar.
In the long run, political negotiations and diplomatic maneuvers will play a vital role in promoting healthy and stable China-Myanmar relations. But that does not mean China will unconditionally and indefinitely desist from using its military to tackle an emergency. To make its borders permanently peaceful, China has to pay equal attention to the above solutions, not least because they supplement each other. The author is a researcher at the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.