Economic corridor with China key to Myanmar’s peace process

Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi was appointed the chairwoman of a panel to oversee Belt and Road initiative (BRI) projects on December 7. The steering committee with Vice President U Myint Swe, ministers, and regional chief ministers as members aims to implement the joint establishment of China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) under BRI.

The committee not only signals the importance Myanmar attaches to BRI, but also demonstrates that the CMEC is an important part of the comprehensive strategic cooperation between China and Myanmar.

Such cooperation includes better control over the northern Myanmar situation and maintenance of peace and stability on the border between Myanmar and China through which the CMEC will pass. Construction of the corridor will help regional stability and could also be a key to breaking the logjam in the peace process.

Beijing proposed the CMEC during the visit of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Myanmar in November 2017. Wang said China was willing to build a corridor that would connect Kunming, Southwest China’s Yunnan Province, and Myanmar’s major economic checkpoints — first to Mandalay in central Myanmar, and then east to Yangon New City and west to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone – in keeping with Myanmar’s development plan and needs.

Speeding up Myanmar’s peace process and border stability is indispensible for the CMEC, which will help drive balanced economic development.

Myanmar is an important neighbor of China. Its stability is linked to China’s southwestern border security. China is not only willing to see a peaceful and stable Myanmar, but would also like to play an active role in promoting the country’s national reconciliation. While maintaining communication with the Myanmar government on the situation in northern Myanmar, China also participated in mediation by sending a special envoy to the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference and promoting participation of ethnic armed groups at the conference.

On December 12, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Arakan Army voiced support for the government’s efforts at national reconciliation and nationwide peace, beginning negotiations with Myanmar’s government in Kunming.

They expressed their desire to work with government to settle military disputes and political issues through dialogue. To achieve peace as early as possible, the three armed groups would suspend attacks. The CMEC is aimed at development and social progress. The corridor will link the least and most developed areas of Myanmar, a move conducive to the country’s economy. The development of border trade and the establishment of economic and trade cooperation zones and industrial parks with complete infrastructure, leading industries and sound public service functions are the main features of the CMEC, which will help create more jobs in the adjoining areas.

Development is a general key to resolving problems, so is it for Myanmar. Balanced and rapid development will strengthen economic ties between ethnic groups in different areas, and make central and local governments aware of the CMEC’s advantages. .

Northern Myanmar is the key to national reconciliation and the peace process. Conflicts in the area were mainly responsible for deadlocking the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference. With the construction of the CMEC, the situation in northern areas of Myanmar has seen unprecedented improvement, which led to breaking of the stalemate.

As Myanmar’s officials pointed out, the country’s national reconciliation and peace process still has a long way to go, and the CMEC would probably be a decisive factor.

The author is a research fellow at The Charhar Institute and the College of ASEAN Studies at China’s Guangxi University for Nationalities. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

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