THE IMPACT OF POLITICAL LIBERALIZATION ON SINO-MYANMAR COOPERATION
Lanuzo, Steve I.
Malley, Michael S.
Mabry, Tristan J.
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This thesis examines the impact of Myanmar’s political liberalization on Sino-Myanmar cooperation from 2008 to 2018. Using a historical comparative analysis of bilateral cooperation from the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), the Union Solidarity Development Party (USDP), and the National League for Democracy (NLD) years, this thesis indicates that political liberalization temporarily weakened Myanmar’s foreign policy with China, which historically has been characterized as Pauk-Phaw, or fraternal. The main reasons stemmed from the growth of anti-Chinese sentiments, coupled with an overdependence on China for economic, security, and diplomatic support during the years before liberalization. As a result, President Thein Sein and the USDP were inclined to loosen relations with China. However, the new democratic regime under Aung San Suu Kyi has re-calibrated that trajectory by strengthening bilateral cooperation. China is critical to solving two key issues that are of national interest to Myanmar—economic growth and a peace deal with various ethnic armed organizations along the Sino-Myanmar border. Also, China continues to diplomatically protect Myanmar from international criticisms toward the military’s violent oppression of the Rohingya people in Rakhine State. Collectively, these factors permit Sino-Myanmar cooperation to endure despite changes in Myanmar’s domestic politics.
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