China and Myanmar can be friends: China Daily

Nurulnadiah Mohamed Noh: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) speaking with Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyidaw.
Nurulnadiah Mohamed Noh: Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi (left) speaking with Myanmar Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi during a meeting at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Naypyidaw.PHOTO: AFP

In its editorial on April 6, the paper says the initial signs from the new National League for Democracy (NLD) government have been encouraging

With China's top diplomat Wang Yi in Myanmar on an official visit at the invitation of Ms Aung San Suu Kyi in her new role as Myanmar's foreign minister, the guesswork over who would top her to-be-invited list has been put to rest.

Given the new, emerging political landscapes inside Myanmar and on China's periphery, this may be nutritious fodder for geopolitical interpretations and imaginings.

But the diplomatic rationalism at work is a reassuring sign that Beijing and post-election Naypyitaw will not get lost in redefining their ties as some had anticipated.

Sharing a border of 2,200 km, China and Myanmar are close neighbours not merely in a geographical sense. Since the 1960s, a special rapport known as the "Pauk-Phaw" friendship, or brotherly feelings, has by and large defined bilateral ties.

However, there have been less-than-pleasant episodes in recent years, prompting speculation that the "Pauk-Phaw" rhetoric was starting to ring hollow. There have even been claims that Naypyitaw is drifting away from, if not turning against, Beijing in a new round of geopolitical wrangling.

But Beijing did not buy that. In congratulatory messages to their newly elected counterparts in Myanmar, both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Mr Wang reiterated a commitment to the "Pauk-Phaw" closeness.

Responding to media inquiries regarding bilateral ties in March, Mr Wang said the troubles were just "growing pains" in the ties between neighbours.

Nor did Naypyitaw.

Ms Suu Kyi said in a recent interview that it is more important to deal with a neighbour than getting along with countries far away. Hosting China's top diplomat as her first official guest testifies to that.

That is logical considering there is a new, closer economic bond at stake. China is Myanmar's No. 1 source of overseas investments as well as its largest trading partner, with Chinese capital accounting for one-third of all foreign investments, and trade with China one-third of Myanmar's overall foreign trade.

So the Chinese and Myanmar foreign ministers have a lot of real business to attend to.

But Ms Suu Kyi was correct in stating earlier that as long as there is the willingness to befriend, there is no reason the two countries cannot be friends.

The ongoing visit shows Beijing and Naypyitaw share that willingness.

The cool-headedness they have displayed so far justifies confidence that bilateral ties will not get stuck in calculations of immediate gains or losses.

With that, and mutual respect, as Ms Suu Kyi suggested, there is no problem that cannot be overcome.

* China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 22 newspapers.