Suu Kyi’s visit will boost eco­nomic ties

Suu Kyi’s visit to China ... is ex­pected to in­ject fresh mo­men­tum into China-Myan­mar ties.

China Daily (USA) - - VIEWS -

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myan­mar’s state coun­selor, will pay a five day visit to China fromWed­nes­day, dur­ing which she will travel to Bei­jing and other Chi­nese cities, and ex­change views on bi­lat­eral re­la­tions with Chi­nese lead­ers.

This is her sec­ond trip to China, the first be­ing in June 2015, when she met with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping as chair­woman ofMyan­mar’s Na­tional League for Democ­racy, then the main op­po­si­tion party. The NLD won ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in both houses of par­lia­ment in­Myan­mar’s gen­eral elec­tion in Novem­ber.

Suu Kyi’s visit to China, the first by aMyan­mar leader since the new gov­ern­ment took of­fice in lateMarch, is ex­pected to in­ject fresh mo­men­tum into China-Myan­mar ties.

China is the most im­por­tant source of for­eign in­vest­ment forMyan­mar. By the end of July, the agreed in­vest­ment in Myan­mar by China had reached $25.4 bil­lion, ac­count­ing for nearly 40 per­cent of the to­tal for­eign in­vest­ment in that coun­try. China is the largest trad­ing part­ner ofMyan­mar and its in­vest­ment there is more than in any other South­east Asian coun­try.

Of course, Bei­jing has ben­e­fited a lot from its com­pre­hen­sive strate­gic part­ner­ship with Naypyi­daw and needs it to fa­cil­i­tate its re­gional co­op­er­a­tive pro­pos­als, such as the Bangladesh-China-Myan­marIn­dia eco­nomic cor­ri­dor and the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive. For that to hap­pen and also to deepen China-Myan­mar co­op­er­a­tion, how­ever, of­fi­cial en­dorse­ment and ex­tra cau­tion are needed. And there is enough room for co­op­er­a­tion in ar­eas such asMyan­mar’s in­fras­truc­ture.

As a global leader in build­ing trans­port net­works, China is will­ing to help im­proveMyan­mar’s in­fras­truc­ture, which that coun­try needs for its eco­nomic devel­op­ment, through bi­lat­eral as well as mul­ti­lat­eral in­vest­ments.

By build­ing more roads, bridges and ports, Myan­mar will not only im­prove re­gional con­nec­tiv­ity but also make the most of its ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion as a coun­try that con­nects the Pa­cific Ocean and the In­dian Ocean as well as South­east Asia and South Asia.

Ac­cord­ing to an Asian Devel­op­ment Bank report in­March, Myan­mar, a per­pet­u­ally deficit state, will need about $60 bil­lion to im­prove its trans­porta­tion sys­tem by 2030. Be­cause of the “prim­i­tive” trans­porta­tion net­work in some ofMyan­mar’s re­gions, the cost of de­liv­er­ing lo­cal agri­cul­tural prod­ucts re­main high. Bet­ter trans­porta­tion in­fras­truc­ture will im­prove the liveli­hoods of Myan­mar’s farm­ers and boost the trade with China’s south­west prov­inces like Yun­nan.

More­over, China andMyan­mar should tap into the po­ten­tial in hy­dro-power co­op­er­a­tion with­out cre­at­ing un­nec­es­sary mis­un­der­stand­ings. Myan­mar’s of­fi­cials have de­cided to deal with the se­vere elec­tric­ity short­age in the coun­try, where half of the pop­u­la­tion still faces con­stant power fail­ures. De­vel­op­ing hy­dro-power is ap­par­ently the most vi­able and eco­nomic op­tion, be­cause it causes the least harm to the en­vi­ron­ment.

As one of prospec­tive in­vestors, China has no in­ten­tion of im­port­ing elec­tric­ity from Myan­mar, be­cause it al­ready has power over­sup­ply, mean­ing its fo­cus is to helpMyan­mar pro­duce more hy­dropower. But China should make sure lo­cal res­i­dents ap­prove of the lo­ca­tion and size of the hy­dro­elec­tric sta­tions, and the en­vi­ron­men­tal as­sess­ments pass pub­lic scru­tiny.

To let moreMyan­mar peo­ple en­joy the div­i­dends of the bi­lat­eral part­ner­ship, China also needs to make more in­vest­ments in sec­tors wel­comed by lo­cal gov­ern­ments. Agri­cul­ture, tex­tile, and tourism in­dus­tries, for ex­am­ple, are bet­ter al­ter­na­tives, be­cause in­vest­ing in them could cre­ate jobs for the lo­cal peo­ple and shift China’s ex­ces­sive ca­pac­ity to a mar­ket that needs it.

More­over, both coun­tries should en­cour­age peo­ple-topeo­ple ex­changes, from the grass­roots to the aca­demic level. To be­gin with, Chi­nese univer­si­ties could take in more stu­dents and of­fer pro­fes­sional train­ing to work­ers from Myan­mar. The au­thor is an as­so­ciate re­searcher in South Asia and South­east Asia stud­ies at China In­sti­tutes of Con­tem­po­rary In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions.

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