Xi’s Visit to Myanmar

Xi will meet with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, military commander-in-chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, and leaders from political parties in a quest to jumpstart some of the stalled BRI projects in Myanmar, according to Myanmar sources.

President Xi Jinping will begin the first state visit by a Chinese leader to Myanmar in 19 years Friday, a trip expected to offer political and economic support for the Southeast Asian nation which has become estranged from leading Western states over accusations of genocide in its expulsion of Rohingya Muslims.

The two-day visit, marking the 70 anniversary of bilateral relations between the two Asian neighbors, underscores China’s importance to Myanmar and Myanmar’s significance for China, which is investing billions of dollars in several key infrastructure projects under Xi’s signature Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Analysts said they view Xi’s visit and China’s approach to Myanmar as a huge economic opportunity, but warn of potential risks for human rights, the environment, and the fledgling democracy’s values.

Some of China’s big projects and other investments have been met with protests over loss of land or environmental concerns.

“There are many opportunities to stimulate economic growth in Myanmar by allowing the BRI projects,” said Thein Tun Oo, director of the Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, a think tank formed by military veterans.

“It will offer massive opportunities for Myanmar entrepreneurs to export local products to countries around the world,” he said.

Beijing has also been trying to broker cease-fires between the Myanmar military and rebel ethnic armies engaged in armed conflict along the countries’ shared border, viewing the clashes and displacement of tens of thousands of civilians as threats to the stability needed to ensure the smooth completion of the BRI projects.

Xi’s visit comes amid heavy international criticism over Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, more than 740,000 of whom were driven out of Rakhine state during a military-led crackdown in 2017, ongoing internal hostilities that threaten the teetering peace process, and a growing need for foreign investment from non-Western countries to shore up Myanmar’s economic development.

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