Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a two day visit to Myanmar He arrived in capital Naypyitaw today. It is President Xi’s first visit to Myanmar also the first visit by a Chinese president to Myanmar in 19 years.
During the visit of President Xi Jinping China speedy implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is on top of the agenda as Myanmar occupies an important strategic location for China at the junction of South and South East Asia. Myanmar formally joined the BRI in September 2018 after signing a 15-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China.
In an article published on Thursday in the state owned Newspaper of Myanmar President Xi said Myanmar and China need to deepen “result-oriented Belt and Road cooperation” and move from “the conceptual stage to concrete planning and implementation” of Beijing’s infrastructure projects across Myanmar. He called the relationship between the two countries as Pauk-phaw, which means siblings from the same mother in Burmese.
The 1700 km long China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), as part of the BRI, will connect Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, to Myanmar’s Mandalay and Yangon which are its major economic hubs, and to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Under the CMEC, Myanmar has agreed to implement nine projects including the Kyaukphyu SEZ which will provide a direct access to China to the Indian ocean.
During the visit, the two countries are expected to sign a dozen agreements including the Kyaukphyu SEZ, $1.3 bn deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state, border cooperation zones, trade, road upgrade projects among others.
Xi is scheduled to meet President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing in the capital Naypyidaw during his visit.
According to Myanmar’s government investment agency, China is the country’s second-largest foreign investor and its largest trading partner.
The visit assumes significance as China is trying hard to push its BRI initiative and revitalise its ties with Myanmar after a few setbacks like scaling down a Chinese-led deep-water port project in Kyaukpyu and the stalled hydel power dam at Myitsone and the copper mining project.
Myanmar seeks to gain from Chinese support as it battles international isolation on the issue of violence against Rohingyas in Rakhine province and a generous financial package from China.