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China and West Differ Over Term for Myanmar’s Military Rule

By Nan Lwin THE IRRAWADDY Wed, February 3, 2021

Military trucks and armored personnel carriers are deployed in Naypyitaw. / The Irrawaddy

YANGON — While western nations have condemned the coup in Myanmar, the Chinese state-owned avoids the term, referring instead to “a major cabinet reshuffle”.

The US State Department called the military take-over and detention of civilian leaders a coup which would trigger restrictions in American assistance to Myanmar. Washington will review its assistance programs to ensure they align with conditions, it added.

However, the US will continue programs that directly benefit civilians, including humanitarian assistance and democratic programs, it said.

The State Department added that it will continue to call on Myanmar’s military to unconditionally release all detainees, saying the coup puts democratic progress at “grave risk”.

“A very small circle of Burma’s military leaders have chosen their own interests over the will and well-being of the people,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, the G7 foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US and representatives of the European Union also condemned the coup.

The G7 foreign ministers called on the military to end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically elected government, release all those unjustly detained and respect human rights and the rule of law. It said: “The November election results must be respected and Parliament should be convened at the earliest opportunity.”

China has failed to condemn Myanmar’s military, which formed a new cabinet largely made up of current and former generals, along with some members of its political proxy, the Union Solidarity and Development Party.

China’s Xinhua News Agency labeled the military’s action a major cabinet reshuffle and did not refer to the seizure of power.

In early January, Beijing dispatched its foreign minister, Wang Yi, to Myanmar as a part of his first Southeast Asian tour of the year. He expressed China’s support for the new government and its hope to accelerate the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) during the next parliamentary term.

In his congratulatory statement, Chinese President Xi Jinping said under Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s leadership Myanmar would enjoy greater achievements and realize prosperity.

In a press briefing, Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for China’s foreign ministry, called for stability in Myanmar, hours after the coup.

He said Beijing hopes all parties can properly handle differences constitutionally, safeguarding political and social stability.

Myanmar plays a vital role in the BRI, particularly providing China access to the Indian Ocean through the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone in Rakhine State. Xi has repeatedly called on Myanmar to cooperate on the practical implementation of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), which is part of the BRI.

China has made several efforts to start CMEC projects but none are yet to get off the ground under the NLD. The NLD government showed a cautious approach to the BRI projects, saying that it must ensure they are commercially viable and follow Myanmar’s development plans.

The NLD has sought third parties to review whether the BRI projects are commercially viable and whether the Chinese proposals are reasonable, including their cost.


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