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Burma’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi flew out from Rangoon airport early on Wednesday morning for a four-day trip to China where she is scheduled to meet President Xi Jinping, Prime Minister Li Keqiang and other senior members of the ruling Communist Party.
The chairperson of the National League for Democracy (NLD) transited in Bangkok en route to Beijing. She is accompanied by party MPs Phyo Zeyar Thaw and Phyo Min Thein, and her personal assistant Tin Mar Aung.
Chinese Foreign ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press conference in Beijing that the Chinese government hopes Suu Kyi’s visit will improve bilateral relations and help create a better understanding between the two countries.
Relations have been strained between Naypyidaw and Beijing in recent months over an influx of Kokang refugees onto Chinese territory as the Burmese army tries to thwart the resistance of ethnic militias in northeastern Shan State.
Ahead of Suu Kyi’s visit, an editorial in China’s state-run Global Times took a swipe at the Thein Sein administration, saying reforms had “complicated” its politics.
“The government is rapidly losing control over society,” said the editorial, before lavishing praise on the opposition leader.
“Suu Kyi will become a good friend of China,” it said. “She has made some positive remarks about China over the years, and also showed a pragmatic attitude in disputes concerning Chinese projects.”
The remarks indicate what would appear to be a growing empathy with the NLD leader among Beijing’s leadership, and their support for Suu Kyi’s role in resurrecting the Latpadaung copper mine, a Chinese-backed project in Sagaing division, which has been the focus of intense protests.
China’s leaders may be hoping that ‘The Lady’, as she is commonly known at home, will be able to use her powers to reinstate another Chinese mega-project in Burma – the Myitsone Dam, which was suspended by presidential decree in 2011, due to public protest and environmental concerns.