February 2: It was not a surprise to Burmese democrats and the international community that China vetoed a US-drafted resolution calling on the Burmese regime to stop persecution in the country, killing the measure in the UN Security Council. This is what we were expecting from China, to use veto power in the UNSC. The fact of the matter is: we want the world and our future generation to know China’s stand on Burma’s conflict, as it is a Burmese historical record. First, China will have to pay a huge political price when building a relationship with Burma’s future generation. Secondly, we must make it clear to Beijing that China will be held accountable for its own motion.

It was not the first time that the Chinese government has interfered in Burma’s conflict. In 1956, Chinese forces invaded Burma, clashing with Burmese troops and taking over disputed territory in northern Burma. Again under his Chinese name, Lin Mingxian, was sent as a “volunteer” by the Chinese government to fight alongside the BCP in the 1960s. He never went back home and became the ruler of Special Region 4 after signing a ceasefire in 1989. This historical fact was also published in many books including in Le Monde diplomatique, in an article ”Burma: a 24th province for China” translated by Donald Hounam in November 2006.

The Sino-Burma war has been published in many history books and articles. Now again to be sure, the Chinese government’s immoral stand on Burma’s cause will be taught in middle school history textbooks in the future. We will teach our children to learn about what the Chinese government had done wrong in the past to the Burmese people and during our difficult times. It will be the same history that the Chinese children have learnt in schools about the Japanese slaughter of some 300,000 civilians in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

Some experts on Burma issues suggested that Burma could become China’s 24th province. In point of fact, Chinese migration into Myanmar has been extensive (estimates range from one to two million Chinese being now in the country, compared to several hundred thousand before 1988). One-quarter of Mandalay is said to be Yunnanese Chinese, as is one-half of Lashio. However, in my view, I disagree. The nationalism that is so apparent in Burma will not allow it to be either the next Tibet or China’s 24th province. Burma is a nation like Israel in its own region. No matter who holds onto the power in Burma, the future respective government will build friendship with its neighbouring countries, and its foreign policies with neighbouring countries will remain the same. This China must understand and should not overlook.

Even though Beijing is pushing Burma’s regime quietly for internal reforms, China must join the regional and international actors to enhance stability by pushing collectively for a change in behaviour by the Burmese regime. China’s participation would have to be based on the premise of recognizing the need to press for change. The approach must include the immediate and irreversible release of Aung San Suu Kyi, the leadership of the NLD and ethnic leaders and their full participation in a transparent and sustained process of national reconciliation aimed at restoration of democracy. China must continue to persuade Burma’s regime for a dialogue strategy with regional and international support. The failure to come up with a dialogue strategy for political development in Burma will cost China dearly in political terms. It will produce regional tension, and it will have an affect on China when it comes to dealing with Burma’s next generation in the near future.

(The writer Myat Soe is a former Central Executive Committee member of All Burma Federation of Student Unions (1988) and currently serves as the Research Director of Justice for Human Rights in Burma. He graduated from Indiana University, and earned his MBA from Indiana Wesleyan University.)