Despite Myanmar dam blockage, China confident about ties with Suu Kyi government

Beijing is seeking to overcome blockages with a controversial Chinese-invested dam in Myanmar, Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday.

Outgoing Myanmese President Thein Sein put the US$3.6 billion Myitsone dam on hold in 2011, citing public opposition. But residents and environmental groups have said CPI, the Chinese company behind the project, has tried to resume construction.

“The Myitsone dam project is a commercial joint venture. We have gone through all the formal procedures. The difficulties we’ve come across within the process are ‘the pains of growing up’,” Wang said.

The two countries would continue to “proactively resolve” the problems, Wang said, adding that China was confident about the prospects for bilateral cooperation even after Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy took power next month.

“China has maintained friendly exchanges with Aung San Suu Kyi and the NLD. Our mutual trust and understanding has been growing. We are confident about Myanmar’s future,” Wang said.

Ties between the neighbours have been strained over the past few years as Myanmar has moved to open up to the West after years of isolation.

The dam’s suspension angered Beijing, but was also widely seen as a wake-up call that prompted China to revise its approach to Myanmar.

The NLD-led government will also need to address controversies over other Chinese investments, treading a fine line between propping up the country’s economy and managing public opinion.

Among these projects is the Chinese-invested Letpadaung Copper Mine, the site of deadly protests. Production will reportedly resume at the mine in May.

China has long sought to cement its influence in Southeast Asia through trade and investment. But maritime territorial disputes, and in Myanmar’s case growing anti-China sentiment, have undermined such efforts.

Wang said on Tuesday that China would see the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as a priority trading partner and hoped to conclude negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a free-trade agreement, this year.

He also said Premier Li Keqiang would invite leaders from the greater Mekong subregion – Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand – for a summit in Hainan ­at the end of this month.

 

Source: South China Morning Post

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