Burma/Myanmar and China: from deference to dependency
In 1988, friendless, fearful and near bankrupt, the military regime in Myanmar1 turned to the PRC for succour, thus casting off a 40-year commitment to neutrality and non-alignment. Myanmar’s rulers – although not the vast majority of its downtrodden and impoverished people – have accrued significant gains from their alignment with the PRC since 1988. Chinese-supplied military equipment has enabled the regime to consolidate internal security and transform the armed forces into a more capable conventional force; concessional loans, debt relief and grant aid from China has kept the economy afloat during lean times; the sale of natural resources has filled the generals’ coffers and allowed the government to circumvent Western sanctions. Equally important, China has used its position on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to shield Myanmar from criticism of its appalling human rights record, while Beijing’s veto provides the ultimate insurance policy against an East Timor-style international humanitarian intervention.