GP Insights

"The “Insights” section aims to keep our audience informed and updated on contemporary developments in world affairs. We attempt to do this through brief reflections and trend analysis. This initiative is short and reader-friendly with a brief presentation of facts, short background and a quick analysis.

Sections of these viewpoints go as a part of our Global Politics weekly roundup called “The World This Week” sent in the form of an e-alert. If you would like to receive these Alerts as and when published, kindly send an email to

GP Insights # 231, 25 January 2020

China and Myanmar signs several MoUs and agreements: Just not the BRI
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

What happened?

On 18 January, Myanmar and China signed 33 memorandum of understanding (MoUs), agreements, protocols and exchange letters, including concession agreement and shareholder’s agreement of Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone Deep Sea Port Project. This MoUs and agreements were signed during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Myanmar. He has also promised to give an aid of 4 billion yuan over the next three years to support the development of Myanmar. 

The MOUs signed focuses on fast-tracking negotiation of the framework agreement on the China-Myanmar Ruili-Muse cross-border economic cooperation zone and on establishing local cooperation under the joint implementation framework for the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) between Yunnan and Mandalay. The Exchange letters and protocols covered a new urban development in Yangon, the acceleration of the Mee Laung Gyaing Integrated Liquid Natural Gas power project in Ayeyarwady Region, plant inspection and quarantine requirements for exporting rice from Myanmar to China, health requirements for bovine slaughter for exports from Myanmar to China, and a zero-interest loan to Myanmar for procuring 28 passenger train coaches from China. 

What is the background?

The bilateral relationships have been often described as 'fraternal' or 'Paukphaw’ due to ethnic and geographic linkages. In 2011, the stalling of the Myitsone dam project due to public protest was a setback to the above relationship. Since then, there was also a rise of anti-Chinese sentiments within Myanmar, dampening the relationship. However, this did not hamper the Chinese investments. Neither did it impact the pro-China sentiment of the Myanmarese leadership.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s visits to China, her pragmatic approaches towards the stalled Chinese projects and also China's active role as a mediator in the national reconciliation process helped the two countries to come closer. This assured Beijing's support for the NLD government. Further, Beijing refused to condemn Myanmar, when the rest of the international community criticised the latter for their treatment to the Rohingyas. The Chinese support is also important for Suu Kyi, who has been condemned and eschewed for her inaction and support for the army. Since coming to power, Suu Kyi's Beijing inclination has been evident. 

China, on the other hand, is marred in the trade war with the US and disputes in the South China Sea with countries in Southeast Asia. Contentions in the South China Sea and maritime claims have soured the relationship of China with Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The BRI is being questioned and scrutinised by Malaysia and Indonesia. Several South and Southeast Asian countries who have received Chinese investment with open arms in the early 2000s have later realised the carrot and stick approach of China in the name of investment. Hence there is a growing apprehension to China’s investment and debt traps which resultant of it. Xi needs to maintain a stronger rapport with Myanmar.

What does it mean?

First, China’s interest in Myanmar is evident. The strategic location of Myanmar plays a crucial role in China's Belt and Road Initiative. All the MoUs on Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone Deep Sea Port Project and China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) and others are crucial for the BRI. 

Second, for Myanmar, Xi’s visit could also backfire. Myanmar will face a general election by the end of 2020. Sui Kyi cannot take popular support for granted, given the failure of the ethnic reconciliation processes and the lack of support from the ethnic minorities. Xi’s visit may further hamper this as most of the stalled projects are in the peripheries where the ethnic minorities are in a majority. This would also end up increasing the anti-Chinese sentiment within Myanmar. 

Third, anti-China sentiment and protests within Myanmar is the cause that has stalled several projects. Hence addressing the sentiment is pivotal for restarting these projects. This could be a reason that Xi has emphasised on the fraternal nature of the Sino-Myanmar relations and its development especially in the border areas. 

Fourth, Xi’s visit could impact Myanmar’s relationship with its other neighbour. The growing bonhomie between the two has made India wary and according to a top official, they have also cautioned Myanmar. In comparison, Japan, the other big investor, seems to be undeterred by Xi's visit has recently offered the aid of 1 billion US dollars for the development of the country. They have also recently praised Myanmar's for its Independent Commission of Enquiry (ICOE) report on the Rohingya crisis. 

January 2020 | GP Insights # 229
World Economic Forum: The 50th meeting at Davos
January 2020 | GP Insights # 225
Afghanistan: Taliban's Proposal to Reduce Violence
January 2020 | GP Insights # 222
Tehran: Protests follow the Airplane shooting
January 2020 | GP Insights # 219
Taiwan: DPP returns to power with a large mandate

January 2020 | GP Insights # 217
Russia: Putin's New Democratic experiment
January 2020 | GP Insights # 216
Myanmar welcomes Xi Jinping
January 2020 | GP Insights # 210
6G Technology: China is an Early Bird
December 2019 | GP Insights # 204
The US plan against Mexican Cartels
December 2019 | GP Insights # 202
Greta Thunberg is TIME's person of the year
December 2019 | GP Insights # 201
UK: Boris Johnson wins big, gets the BREXIT mandate
December 2019 | GP Insights # 200
ICJ: Suu Kyi defends the indefensible
December 2019 | GP Insights # 199
Spain: COP 25 begins in Madrid

December 2019 | GP Insights # 198
Iran: The protests continue
December 2019 | GP Insights # 197
NATO at 70: Brain Dead and Jaws Dropped
November 2019 | GP Insights # 196
London attacks: A reality check on radicalisation
November 2019 | GP Insights # 195
Iran protests: Thousands arrested

November 2019 | GP Insights # 193
Russia Releases Ukrainian Vessels
November 2019 | GP Insights # 191
Mass Protests in Iran

November 2019 | GP Insights # 189
Protest in Georgia over constitutional reform
November 2019 | GP Insights # 188
Sri Lanka: Return of the Rajapaksas
November 2019 | GP Insights # 187
Hong Kong: Violence reaches a new high

November 2019 | GP Insights # 185
Brazil: Leaders meet for the 11th BRICS Summit
November 2019 | GP Insights # 184
Bolivia: Political crisis over elections
November 2019 | GP Insights # 183
US-China Tariff Rollback: Yes, sorry no…  

November 2019 | GP Insights # 181
India refuses to sign the RCEP 
November 2019 | GP Insights # 178
Lebanon: PM Hariri quits, but protests continue
November 2019 | GP Insights # 177
ISIS after Baghdadi
November 2019 | GP Insights # 176
UK Elections: A delayed Brexit; divided Parliament
October 2019 | GP Insights # 173
Brazil’s mysterious oil spill 
October 2019 | GP Insights # 170
Hong Kong Violence: A divide within
October 2019 | GP Insights # 168
Spain: The trouble in Catalonia
October 2019 | GP Insights # 167
Turkey's Offensive in Syria

October 2019 | GP Insights # 161
UK: Boris Johnson announces a Brexit roadmap
October 2019 | GP Insights # 160
Iraq: The Protests Now
October 2019 | GP Insights # 158
China: Celebrating 70 years
September 2019 | GP Insights # 157
UK: Parliament uproar over Boris Johnson’s language
September 2019 | GP Insights # 156
US and Japan: A limited trade agreement
September 2019 | GP Insights # 154
The UN Climate Action Summit: No Action Plan yet
September 2019 | GP Insights # 151
Climate Change protests ahead of the UN Summit

September 2019 | GP Insights # 149
Afghanistan: Taliban’s deadly strikes
September 2019 | GP Insights # 148
Israel: No clear winners in the elections
September 2019 | GP Insights # 147
An Amazon in the East: The Forest Fires in Indonesia

September 2019 | GP Insights # 144
"Glory to Hong Kong": Protesters' New Anthem
September 2019 | GP Insights # 142
Suspension of the British Parliament
August 2019 | GP Insights # 140
Italy: Experiments with a new coalition
August 2019 | GP Insights # 139
Huawei vs Google: The Saga Continues

August 2019 | GP Insights # 136
G7 Summit: Cold responses and little outcomes
August 2019 | GP Insights # 133
Italy: Political turmoil as the PM resigns
August 2019 | GP Insights # 132
Brexit: No backing out on backstop deal
August 2019 | GP Insights # 130
Brazil: The fires in Amazon goes global
August 2019 | GP Insights # 128
Jammu and Kashmir: The UNSC meeting
August 2019 | GP Insights # 127
Israel: US Congresswomen's visit denied 

August 2019 | GP Insights # 121
North Korea: Cyber theft of  $ 2 billion
August 2019 | GP Insights # 120
Hong Kong: China issues a strong warning
August 2019 | GP Insights # 118
J&K: India revokes Kashmir’s special status
August 2019 | GP Insights # 116
US Withdraws from the INF Treaty
August 2019 | GP Insights # 115
The Netherlands ban Burqa

August 2019 | GP Insights # 113
Trump imposes new tariffs on China
July 2019 | GP Insights # 106
Pakistan Airspace Reopens after five months
July 2019 | GP Insights # 105
US excludes Turkey from the F-35 program
July 2019 | GP Insights # 103
US House blocks Trump's Saudi arms deal

July 2019 | GP Insights # 101
Myanmar: US-led  sanctions will not go far
July 2019 | GP Insights # 100
Iran to breach nuclear stockpile threshold
July 2019 | GP Insights # 96
Libya: Attack on Migration Centre kills 60
June 2019 | GP Insights # 93
G20 Summit 2019 in Japan: Early takeaways
June 2019 | GP Insights # 89
Hong Kong Protests: Expanding the Goals?
June 2019 | GP Insights # 87
Protests in Georgia

June 2019 | GP Insights # 85
Xi visits North Korea
June 2019 | GP Insights # 84
Hong Kong: The Protests Escalates Further
June 2019 | GP Insights # 82
Nigeria: The Triple Suicide Bombing
June 2019 | GP Insights # 78
Xi's Visit to North Korea
June 2019 | GP Insights # 75
Sudan: African Union suspends membership

June 2019 | GP Insights # 73
The Gulf of Oman: Attack on Oil tankers
June 2019 | GP Insights # 72
Sudan: The Military orders crackdown
June 2019 | GP Insights # 70
Japan and Iran: Abe’s Peace Mission
June 2019 | GP Insights # 69
India: Two Days, Two Neighbors
June 2019 | GP Insights # 67
India's New Priority: BIMSTEC, not SAARC?

June 2019 | GP Insights # 66
China's First Orbital Sea Launch
June 2019 | GP Insights # 65
China and Russia: Xi Jinping's Moscow Visit
June 2019 | GP Insights # 63
Hong Kong: China's Game Plan

June 2019 | GP Insights # 62
India, US and the S-400: Threat of Sanctions
June 2019 | GP Insights # 61
Sudan: Clampdown on Protestors
June 2019 | GP Insights # 59
Trump's UK Visit

May 2019 | GP Insights # 48
Indonesia: Post-election violence
May 2019 | GP Insights # 44
1500 American troops to the Middle East
May 2019 | GP Insights # 36
US-China Trade Talks

May 2019 | GP Insights # 34
Sri Lanka Attacks: Deepening fault lines
May 2019 | GP Insights # 33
The Huawei Controversy in the UK
November 2018 | GP Insights # 188
Sri Lanka: Return of the Rajapaksas
Click here for old Short Notes