“China was Myanmar’s main backer and largest investor during its years of international seclusion, supporting strategic infrastructure projects such as oil and gas pipelines, ports, and dams. Between 1988 and 2013, China accounted for a whopping 42 percent of the $33.67 billion in foreign investment that flowed into Myanmar. But the nature of these projects — including concerns about forcibly-relocated populations, land confiscation, environmental hazards, and the inflow of cheap goods and labor — made China unpopular with the Burmese public”.
“Myanmar’s military was even more reliant on China: Almost 60 percent of the country’s arms imports during that same period came from the Middle Kingdom. And until recently, the military remained favorably disposed to their northern neighbor. Yet Beijing appears to have ruined the one good relationship it had going in the country. The suspension of the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam on the Irrawaddy River in 2011 — a project initially agreed between Myanmar’s military junta and the state-owned China Power Investment Corp. in 2005 — hurt ties. But it was the killing of five Chinese citizens by Myanmar’s air force in March, while conducting raids on rebels along the border, and China’s response, that has significantly widened the rift with the military.”
“The deteriorating relationship between China and Myanmar’s military has coincided with the latter’s economic and political opening.”
“Today, the economic aspects of liberalization and diversification are visible on the streets of Yangon. The likes of Coca-Cola and Samsung jostle for billboard space with Norway’s largest mobile service provider Telenor, India’s Tata Motors, and even China’s consumer electronics giant, Haier.”
“Myanmar’s political opening — which has empowered civil society and enabled greater public criticism of China’s intentions — is less pronounced, but nonetheless real. Many formerly exiled dissidents have returned to the country. Organized opposition politics is no longer underground; over 70 political parties have registered to compete in the general elections scheduled for November. Media outlets like the exile-founded Mizzima News and the Australian-led Myanmar Times are making inroads, and foreign broadcasters such as Japan’s NHK and Singapore’s Channel News Asia have been allowed to establish a presence. And in a familiar signal of democratic liberalization, George Soros has arrived as the Medici-like benefactor of the country’s NGOs. It is significant that such developments — once closely associated with Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet Union — are now taking place in what was once considered China’s exclusive sphere of influence.”