Burma and China reaffirmed their strong bilateral relationship during a meeting between the head of Burma’s armed forces, Snr-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, and Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Wednesday.
According to a report in Chinese state media, the two countries hailed their relationship as “good neighbors, good friends and good partners”. President Xi Jinping underscored the need to promote peace and stability throughout the region by cementing a “comprehensive strategic partnership”.
China also stressed the “great importance” of ensuring peace and stability along its border with Burma where a two-year civil conflict with ethnic Kachin rebels has raged, forcing thousands of refugees over the Chinese border.
China has played a key role in peace negotiations between the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) and the Burmese government, even hosting talks in its border town Ruili in a bid to stem the fighting.
China has vast natural resource interests in Burma, including Kachin state which is rich in hydropower, timber, jade and minerals. China and Burma reportedly also agreed to strengthen their military-to-military ties during their talks on Wednesday.
The news comes amid reports that violence has again flared between the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army, and government troops. According to a report by Kachin News Group, the Burmese army attacked rebel positions in northern Shan state’s Mabein township on Tuesday, five days after the two sides inked a fresh peace deal in the Kachin state capital Myitkyina, which was attended by both UN and Chinese observers.
The KIO and the government had agreed to lay the foundations for political dialogue, re-open roads across the conflict-torn state, establish a joint-monitoring committee and develop a plan for the voluntary return of internally displaced persons. But the latest bout of fighting casts doubt on the durability of the peace deal, possibly raising concerns within the Chinese leadership.
As Burma continues to emerge from decades of military rule and economic isolation, its leaders have taken care not to upset China, which remains the country’s biggest sole investor and strategic ally. But a number of China-backed natural resource projects have provoked a furious backlash among locals in Burma, especially in its resource-rich ethnic minority territories.