Chinese President Xi seen as standing with Myanmar over ICJ case

18 January 2020
Chinese President Xi seen as standing with Myanmar over ICJ case
China sides with Myanmar in ICJ "genocide" case at the Hague. Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi speaks at the ICJ in The Hague, The Netherlands, 11 December 2019. Photo: Koen Van Weel/EPA

Various commentators have offered up mixed views on the historic visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Myanmar but one message that comes through is the Chinese leader stands with Myanmar in its stance over how it handled the Rakhine crisis.

Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Myanmar on January 17 at the invitation of Myanmar President Win Myint. 

During his two-day visit, Chinese President will discuss with Myanmar leaders China-Myanmar relations and  his country’s investments in Myanmar. 

Chinese Foreign Minister Wan Yi also visited Myanmar last month before Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi faced trial at International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague in case being accused of killing people with genocidal intent. At the difficult time of Myanmar, facing trial at ICJ, being imposed by US economic sanctions and amid political tensions with western countries, the official visit of Chinese President to Myanmar suggests China is standing with Myanmar. 

Former Union Minister U Ye Htut said that President Thein Sein also invited the Chinese President to visit Myanmar during his tenure but this was the first ever visit of President Xi to Myanmar under the current National League for Democracy-led government. 

Former Minister U Ye Htut’s told Mizzima that under the tenure of former President Thein Sein, China and Myanmar had some issues including the Myitsone project that could not be resolved. 

“The first one is Myitsone project. The second one is Kyaukpyu-Kunming Railway project. The third one is the Kyaukphyu economics zone,” he said. 

Among the three projects, the decision on the Kyaukphyu economic zone project could be made in 2015, under the tenure of the Thein Sein government. 

The issues related to the Myitsone project and the Kyaukphyu-Kunming Railway project have not been resolved, he noted.

“What I am interested in is how much they have agreed on these two issues,” he added. 

Political Analyst Dr Aung Myo suggested that Myanmar’s agricultural trade with China needed resolving. 

“Myanmar’s agricultural products are sold to China’s market, and in fact, we should agree to a quota. But the quota has not been determined. So it is like smuggling,” he said.

“What I mean is that China let Chinese traders buy Myanmar’s agricultural products when they need the products. But, when they don’t need the products, they usually arrest the people as smugglers. So, the market is damaged. It is unstable. An agreement should be made on this issue. Because our country is an agricultural country,” Dr Aung Myo said.

Political Analyst U Kyaw Win suggested there might be some leeway if the Myitsone dam project fails to get resolved.

“If we cancel the Myitsone project, we still can give other project opportunities to China as a replacement. Because there are many projects that China wants to carry out. They are the BRI, Kyaukphyu deep-sea port and so on. It will be very difficult for Myanmar to refuse these projects. So Myanmar must allow China to some extent,” he said. 

“On the other hand, I think we must ask for help from China in peace-making process. To say frankly, China will not provide enough assistance in peace process, so Myanmar will not get complete peace. But I think that China can help Myanmar in order that the Northern Alliance member groups participate in the possible peace conference that may be held soon,” U Kyaw Win said.