MNA Exclusive Desk: China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) got a high octane boost last week, when Myanmar — facing the heat from the West because of the Rohingya refugee crisis — inked an agreement with Beijing to establish a cross border economic corridor.
The 1,700-km corridor will provide China yet another node to access the Indian Ocean. Already Gwadar port — one of the terminal points of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) — has become Beijing’s star gateway to the Arabian Sea.
“The China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) can become a major factor in lifting the economies of landlocked southwest China, which include the Provinces of Yunnan and Sichuan, by providing them a passage to the Indian Ocean,” says Long Xingchun, Associate Professor of China’s West Normal University, in a conversation with The Hindu.
The CMEC will also reduce Beijing’s trade and energy reliance on the Malacca straits — the narrow passage that links the Indian Ocean with the Pacific. Chinese planners worry that the military domination over the Malacca straits of the United States — a country with which it is already engaged in a trade war — can threaten one of China’s major economic lifeline.
The CMEC will run from Yunnan Province of China to Mandalay in Central Myanmar. From there it will head towards Yangon, before terminating at the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) on the Bay of Bengal. “The corridor connects Yunnan and three important economic centres in Myanmar… and aims to promote the economic integration of the region,” says China’s state-run Global Times.
China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), Beijing’s top planning body that signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar on September 9, stitched the CMEC with the BRI. The CMEC will focus on 12 areas including basic infrastructure, construction, manufacturing, agriculture, transport, finance, human resource development and telecommunications. Joint Working Groups and committees will be formed to implement the projects.
In August, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) opened a new centre in Yangon, which could help fund some of the CMEC driven projects, China’s state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Three factors, including the ascending pressure on Naypyidaw from human rights groups and western governments appear to have reinforced the China-Myanmar bond. Source- The Hindu