Myanmar unrolls a welcome mat for China, but not quite


In 2018, Myanmar renegotiated the terms of an agreement for a deep seaport in Rakhine state, which critics said was at risk of ending up in Chinese hands due to a high debt burden. Rights groups also condemned the project for trampling the rights of local populations.

"The absolute lack of transparency on such agreements is deeply disturbing," said Bequelin of Amnesty International.

With shootings between ethnic armies and the Myanmar army that continue to erupt on the Chinese border, Chinese investment has declined, said U Soe Nyunt Lwin, minister of planning and finance for Shan State, another region plagued by conflicts.

"I hope somehow there is a solution for peace during Xi Jinping's visit," he said.

The Chinese government influences some ethnic armed groups fighting against Myanmar's army. Ethnic militia leaders seek refuge in China, and Beijing once rented a plane from China to deliver ethnic representatives to a national peace conference in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar. Like everyone else, that peace summit failed.

China, ethnic capos and the state of Myanmar, once known as Burma, have benefited from the bounty of borderlands devastated by the nation's war. There is jade, natural gas and hydropower, gold, wood and rare earth metals.

But many residents of these conflict zones have been involved in an endless cycle of displacement and poverty.

"Everyone, the Burmese, the Chinese, everyone wants what's on our ground," said Daw Doi Bu, a Kachin ethnic activist and former legislator. "We don't make a profit."

Hannah Beech reported from Bangkok and Saw Nang from Mandalay, Myanmar.


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