China: The Great Wall for Myanmar

Desk Report, China’s stance at the UN Security Council on securing condemnation about the military takeover in Myanmar did not come as a surprise given the two countries’ past and present relations.

The Chinese have been building a strong ally in Myanmar as part of its sphere of influence in the South East Asia strategy and it was this interest that has led it to slap down a statement by the UNSC Tuesday.

Earlier, it had blocked UNSC’s move to take actions against Myanmar on charge of committing atrocities against the Rohingyas by its army and other security forces in 2017.

After repeated abortive efforts, the most influential body of the UN ran out of energy. It remains silent on the issue for long.

Tuesday’s move by the UNSC to condemn the military takeover of power in Myanmar was simply to issue a mere statement, not making proposals for stern actions like sanctions. Yet, the move failed as it faced China’s stonewalling.
On January 12, 2021 local time, State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Myanmar’s Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Min Aung Hlaing in Nay Pyi Taw.

A Chinese diplomat at the UN did not give his consent to the statement and wanted to send it to Beijing for review.

The outcome of the review by Beijing can easily be surmised in the light of its Myanmar strategy.

When the condemnation was pouring in from across the globe against the Myanmar army’s takeover, Beijing termed it as Myanmar “internal issue” which should be resolved by all parties of the country through discussion.

So, it clearly indicates that China will protect the Myanmar junta from the UN’s potential action in the coming days as it had done for decades when Myanmar junta became a pariah for keeping the country under military rule trampling democracy and human rights.

Myanmar expert Elliott Prasse-Freeman, of the National University of Singapore thinks a UN statement would not have made an immediate difference, it would still serve as “a first step for cohering an international response. That appears to not be forthcoming, BBC reports.

Yet, China blocked Tuesday’s move. By doing this, China just put another brick in the wall to save its “friendly neighbour”.

China has been applying the same strategy for shielding Myanmar from the global body’s actions for committing genocide against the Rohingyas, the world’s most persecuted people in modern times, by terming it Myanmar’s internal issue. It also refrained from condemning Myanmar for the atrocities that drew strongly worded global condemnation.

When it comes to the question of repatriation of the Rohingyas, China has a recipe for the crisis that should be settled through bilateral discussion between Dhaka and Naypyidaw, Myanmar’s new capital set up by the military junta regime.

That recipe did not work. Not a single Rohingya was repatriated in more than two years into signing a deal in November 2017 after the Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh fleeing violence in their homeland.

The latest changeover in power made the future of Rohingya repatriation even bleaker. A meeting between Dhaka and Naypyidaw supposed to be held on February 7 is now uncertain. The Bangladesh foreign minister, in his immediate reaction, termed the changeover as a new major concern for repatriation.
His concern is valid given the track record of the Myanmar army that has been carrying out cleansing operations against the Rohingya. The military regime stripped the Rohingyas of citizenship making them stateless people for decades. It carried out cleansing operations against the Rohingyas in the 1970s and 1990s forcing thousands of them to cross the borders to take shelter in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh governments needed hectic efforts for years to repatriate the Rohingyas, though not fully, in the previous two occasions.

After the largest exodus of the Rohingyas in 2017, their repatriation is facing a bleak future as the Myanmar government has imposed repatriation conditions stricter than those in the 1970s and 1990s.

The military takeover has shifted global attention to democracy in Myanmar from the Rohingya crisis. Centreing it, the geopolitics in Asia can be reshaped. Myanmar is now set to become a new battleground for the USA and China in their efforts to establish supremacy over Asia.

Myanmar has appeared as a test for the new Biden administration as it will be putting pressure on the military junta for the release of Suu Kyi who was overthrown and detained, and for the restoration of democracy. In this endeavour, the USA may re-impose sanctions on Myanmar and pursue the UN for actions. Myanmar’s military rulers will find no other option but to lean on China for support and China will use it to bolster its dominance in Myanmar for strategic and economic interests.

In this battle, repatriation of the Rohingyas will remain buried under the wall forcing Bangladesh to carry the burden for years to come.

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