China paper warns Myanmar not to strengthen ties with the US

Supporters of National League for Democracy (NLD) party celebrate in front of the NLD headquarters a day after general elections in Yangon.
Supporters of National League for Democracy (NLD) party celebrate in front of the NLD headquarters a day after general elections in Yangon. PHOTO: EPA

BEIJING (AFP) - A Chinese newspaper linked to the ruling Communist Party warned Myanmar on Tuesday (Nov 10) not to leave its embrace for the United States, as opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi's party was slated to wrest power from the military-backed government.

Beijing was Yangon's closest ally during the later years of military rule, providing a shield from international opprobrium and a lifeline as a trading partner for the junta.

But China's extraction of raw materials spurred popular anger across Myanmar, and Ms Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy have vowed to better represent the will of the people.

As Myanmar's quasi-civilian government has moved towards open elections and worked to improve relations with Western countries, ties with China have moved "from special to normal", the Global Times, affiliated with Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece People's Daily, said in an editorial.

 

Moving closer to the US would be "a witless move (that) would ruin the strategic space and resources it can obtain from China's amicable policies", the editorial said.

"China has been strategically magnanimous and kind."

Observers say the scale of interests that China accrued in Myanmar during military rule, mainly in natural resources, added to internal tensions.

But in June, Beijing hosted Ms Suu Kyi in a sign that key players in both nations are keen on tying down future relations.

One of current Myanmar President Thein Sein's first major acts after assuming power was to halt construction of the huge Chinese-backed Myitsone dam in Kachin state.

In an apparent reference to the US$3.6 billion (S$5.1 billion) project, the Global Times editorial said "the disruption of large programmes between the two sides does not serve Myanmar's interests".

Earlier this year, Beijing strongly rebuked its neighbour after a Myanmar plane dropped a bomb in Chinese territory, leaving five Chinese citizens dead, amid fighting between government troops and ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels.