Mon 4 Feb 2013
Filed under: Opinion,Regional
Recently, Myanmar’s government military has continually engaged in crossfire with the Kachin Independence Army. This naturally affected China’s border region as the artillery shells landed in China. Afterwards, Jane’s Defense Weekly released a report saying that China provided weapons to the opposition (KIA). And VOA issued a follow-up report. Is this type of report true? Generally speaking, from common sense, the story is completely groundless.
For one thing, these reports failed to raise any convincing evidence. Also, more importantly, China has never been good at playing this game. In international relations, especially in the relations with neighboring countries, China is not good at providing such support to other countries’ rebels or armed groups. This has never happened in the past.
The countries who have ample experience in doing this are the U.S. and U.K. They are good at such things. If they are not satisfied with the government of one country and intend to overthrow the government, they could provide weapons to arm the opposition groups inside the country without sending their own troops. They have done this in Syria and Libya, and are continuing to do so. But in the case of China, China does not have such ambition or ferocity. Also at the same time, China is not like the U.S. and does not act like a superpower, meaning, with the aggressiveness or inflated ego of itself. So far, China is incapable of such actions.
But in the case of Myanmar, if its internal politics hurt China’s fundamental interests, China does not have to stick to one unchanging policy course. Instead, China should act with flexibility. One issue needs to be emphasized: the internal conflict in Myanmar has presented certain threats to China. It does not only threaten the security of China’s periphery and its border region, but also poses major challenges to China’s existing interest inside Myanmar, including a challenge to the oil and gas pipelines from the Myanmar port to Yunnan province. Although there are some distances between the oil and gas pipelines and the conflict areas in Kachin state, if the condition continues to deteriorate, China’s construction projects might really be affected. Such cases exist from before, including not just the construction of the oil and gas pipelines, but also other projects such as Chinese copper mines.
In this respect, if there is need, or reason for China to interfere, China should. Recently, I have made the point that China will not interfere in Myanmar domestic politics. But when its internal politics infringe upon China’s interest, China should interfere as it warrants. Similar moves have been taken recently, including the PLA’s engagement of Myanmar military.
At the same time, there are new reports on China engaging the KIA. This type of engagement is positive. It is anchored in the hope that the two sides will have peaceful negotiations and solve their conflicts through dialogue. Regardless of whether foreign reports may not be trustworthy, from China’s perspective, its policy towards Myanmar, as well as any other country, should not always stay constant. It should be adjusted when appropriate.