China Condemns Myanmar Border Clashes

Cross-border shelling hits Chinese border town injuring five, as fighting continues in neighbouring Myanmar between the military junta and rebel forces.

Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said that China “strongly deplores” the casualties caused by the shelling and called for the relevant parties “to cease fire and stop the conflict” immediately in order to avoid such incidents in the future. China has warned its citizens against travelling to northern Myanmar and advised those already there to leave the area, seek shelter, or return to China. Similar incidents happened in the past due to clashes in the Kokang region of Myanmar’s Shan State, as shells from the area crossed the border in China’s Yunnan province in 2009 and 2015, prompting similar responses from the Chinese government.

Clashes between the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s military junta, and the Three Brotherhood Alliance comprising various anti-junta forces have escalated ever since the February 2021 coup d’etat which resulted in the military headed by Min Aung Hlaing taking control over the country. The opposition forces headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, former State Counsellor of Myanmar, have formed the National Unity Government in exile, which declared the People’s Defensive War against the military junta in September 2021 calling on all citizens of Myanmar to take arms against the military regime.

Nansan lies less than 3km from China’s border with Myanmar

Tensions between the junta and the opposition reached a boiling point in October 2023, as the Three Brotherhood Alliance comprising various ethnic, political, and social forces launched Operation 1027 in Myanmar’s Shan State along the China-Myanmar border. The operation resulted in the opposition forces capturing various key border cities such as Chinshwehaw, Laukkai, and Muse and blocking key trade routes for China-Myanmar trade such as the Lashio-Muse Highway and Lashio-Chinshwehaw Road as well as several border posts. Additional operations, namely Operation 1107 and Operation 1111, were launched in support of the Three Brotherhood Alliance by the Karenni ethnic armed organizations in other regions of the country, such as the Kayah State and the Bago region. In December 2023, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) reported that more than 660,000 people have been displaced since the escalation of the conflict, with the total current displacement standing at 2,6 million people nationwide.

As the conflict along the China-Myanmar border has significantly disrupted trade between the two countries, China has sought to facilitate talks between the military junta and the opposition forces. In December 2023, China’s Foreign Ministry said negotiations were held between representatives of the warring parties. Mao Ning, Foreign Ministry spokesperson said that China hoped that the agreements would be implemented by all the relevant parties and noted a decline in the number of clashes along the China-Myanmar border in the Shan State. However, the ceasefire agreement seems to have failed to materialize, as the opposition forces have since reaffirmed their commitment to defeating the military “dictatorship” without mentioning any ceasefire or agreement.

Both the military junta and the National Unity Government in exile hold pragmatic and positive views of China-Myanmar relations seeking to establish broader ties between the two nations. On the one hand, China has been one of the key allies of the military junta militarily, diplomatically, and politically. In April 2022 Wang Yi, China’s Foreign Minister, vowed China’s full support of the military government “no matter how the situation changes”.

On the other hand, opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was one of the key figures in enhancing China-Myanmar relations reiterating in 2016 the country’s full support of the One-China policy and supporting the Chinese approach to the Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang issues. This week, the National Unity Government released its 10-point statement on relations with China stressing that it strives for building “good neighbourly” relations with the global powerhouse and is committed to engaging in “close cooperation with China” in various spheres.

Myanmar is one of China’s key partners in the region sharing a 2,000 km long border and being an active participant of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The country is a major supplier of rare-earth elements, copper, tin, and other metals, accounting for about 75-95% of Chinese imports of these products. More than a third of the $5 billion China-Myanmar trade is halted due to the blockade of border posts in Chinshwehaw and Muse, with $1 billion worth of natural gas piped to China through Muse. In this regard, stability in Myanmar is of particular importance to the China, which is why it takes a proactive stance seeking to resolve the issues between the warring parties.

Reposts are welcomed with the reference to ORIENTAL REVIEW.
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