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Xi's visit will chart new course for ties with Myanmar

By Jia Duqiang | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-15 08:08
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People visit the Myanmar pavilion at the second China International Import Expo in Shanghai on Nov 8, 2019. [Photo/VCG]

As traditional friendly neighbors, China and Myanmar are already engaged in mutually beneficial trade and economic relations, and President Xi Jinping's two-day visit to Myanmar from Friday will deepen this engagement and further promote cooperation between the two sides.

Thanks to the vitality of bilateral trade, win-win cooperation between China and Myanmar has been progressing well. Since Myanmar is rich in natural resources and urgently needs infrastructure facilities, Chinese investment has grown rapidly in Myanmar, making China the largest trading partner and the biggest source of investment for Myanmar. By the end of November, 415 Chinese enterprises had earned approval for investing in Myanmar, up from 280 in 2018.

The fact that Chinese enterprises have huge experience and expertise in fields such as agriculture, industry, infrastructure, transportation and power generation will help them meet Myanmar's development needs, and create opportunities for cooperation and investment. In fact, from January to September 2019, Chinese companies signed new projects worth $4.77 billion in Myanmar, an increase of 238 percent year-on-year.

Besides, an oil and gas pipeline from the port of Kyaukpyu in western Myanmar to China's southwestern province of Yunnan, which started operations in 2013, had contributed about $500 million in direct economic revenue to Myanmar by the end of November 2019.

China is also the main foreign market for Myanmar's agricultural products such as vegetables, fruits and rice, and given the popularity of Myanmar rice in China, the Chinese government has raised its import quota from 100,000 tons to 400,000 tons a year.

Yet bilateral agricultural trade was far from smooth in 2019. For example, Myanmar's export of pineapples and sugar to China suffered due to problems such as product quality. Myanmar also halted the export of rare earths to China in late December, seeking "rectification" of mining operations, which affected bilateral relations.

The problems having an impact on cooperation underline the importance of holding regular communication on the basis of mutual respect in order to remove misgivings, preempt misunderstandings and resolve outstanding issues. In this context, the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and the economic corridor connecting Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar are larger trade and economic arrangements that will promote China-Myanmar cooperation.

At the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in April 2019, Myanmar signed cooperation documents with China in various fields, including green development and the CMEC. The two sides also inked a memorandum of understanding outlining a five-year collaboration in trade and economy. And the under-construction railway linking Yunnan province in China with Mandalay in Myanmar, along with the new Yangon industrial city and the Kyaukpyu special economic zone, form the supporting frameworks for the CMEC.

China is also trying to broker an agreement between Myanmar and Bangladesh on their border and related issues. Especially, China has made increasing efforts to persuade Myanmar and Bangladesh to settle their bilateral issues, so both countries can focus on their respective economic development.

Both China and Myanmar attach great importance to their comprehensive strategic partnership. And Xi's visit will help expand communication and strengthen bilateral relations between China and Myanmar, and enable them reap the fruits of win-win cooperation.

The author is an associate researcher in Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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