Economic ties to dominate Daw Suu’s China visit

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi was due to leave for China on Wednesday on a visit expected to be dominated by talks on economic cooperation, media reports said last week.

The trip, her first outside Southeast Asia since the National League for Democracy government took office on March 30, comes ahead of a visit to the United States planned for next month.

Suu Kyi, who Chinese media reports say will be received as a head of state, is due to meet President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang during the four-day visit.

Economic cooperation will be top of the agenda for her talks with Chinese leaders, according to observers, the South China Morning Post said on August 11.

It quoted Mr Zhang Xuegang, a specialist on Southeast Asia at the Beijing-based China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, as saying Suu Kyi’s main goal was to solicit more financial support from China and improve economic cooperation.

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The report quoted another academic as saying the trip was unlikely to resolve the future of the China-backed US$3.6 billion Myitsone dam in Kachin State, on which work was suspended by the previous government.

Mr Oh Ei-sun, a senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the dam had become a stumbling block in bilateral relations but it “may not be realistic” to expect a resolution of the issue during the visit.

“The issue involves many dimensions, such as environmental concerns, displacement of indigenous peoples, and the economic benefits for Myanmar,” Oh told the SCMP.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper said the trip was expected to help recalibrate bilateral relations under the new Myanmar government.

The newspaper, a feisty tabloid known for its outspoken nationalism, quoted unnamed analysts as saying Suu Kyi’s decision to travel to Beijing ahead of Washington was “a small diplomatic victory” for China.

The report noted that the visit was occurring ahead of the Panglong 21st Century peace conference late this month.

“China’s support is seen as vital in resolving Myanmar’s decade-long ethnic conflicts,” the Global Times said.

“Both Myanmar and China know, as Myanmar’s northern neighbour, China can help Myanmar in ways that the US cannot,” Mr Ji Qiufeng, a professor of international relations at Nanjing University, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

The visit is Suu Kyi’s second to China. She met Xi in June 2015 during a visit as head of an NLD delegation.

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