Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will arrive in Burma’s capital Naypyidaw today for a two-day visit to meet his new Burmese counterpart, National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The visit, the first that Suu Kyi will host in her capacity as foreign minister, signals Beijing’s hopes that a new government in Burma will help restore a key bilateral relationship that soured under the quasi-civilian administration of former President Thein Sein.
Thein Sein’s decision early in his tenure to suspend the massive Chinese-backed Myitsone hydropower dam project in Kachin State forced China to reevaluate its relations with Burma, a country long ruled by an isolated military regime that had grown increasingly dependent on Beijing’s political, military and economic support.
The project, which was deeply unpopular among Burmese, was widely seen as a symbol of China’s malign influence during the era of military rule.
Later protests aimed at shutting down the equally controversial Letpadaung copper mine, operated by China’s Wanbao Mining and the Burmese military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd, threatened to further derail ties between the two countries, until a parliamentary commission led by Suu Kyi decided in favour of going ahead with the project.
Last year, the then opposition leader was invited by Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit Beijing, in a sign of her growing political stature on the regional stage.
A commentary published last week by The Global Times, a mouthpiece of the Communist Party of China, indicated what Beijing is hoping for from an NLD-led government.
Lamenting widespread suspicion of Chinese intentions among the Burmese public, it argued that “Suu Kyi can help remove distrust of China.”
“The conspiracy theories about China that have been widely circulated among Myanmese [sic], should be self-evidently false for Suu Kyi given her political experiences and wisdom,” it said, adding that the “Myitsone Dam project is a barometer of Sino-Myanmese relations.”
Suu Kyi is scheduled to hold a press conference later this afternoon in Naypyidaw after her meeting with Wang.