By Marwaan Macan-Markar
BANGKOK, Sep 8 (IPS) – If military-ruled Burma needed a stark symbol of China’s growing dominance in the country, then it would be poised to get one soon. The Asian giant is about to start building two pipelines – for gas and oil – that will span the breadth of the South-east Asian nation.
Little wonder why the nearly 1,000-kilometre route of the two pipelines – which will begin on Burma’s western coast, facing the Andaman Sea, and then head into China’s Yunnan province, that borders north-eastern Burma – is already being described in ways that convey an unequal relationship between the two countries.
“It is being called a ‘Colonial Pipeline’. This is what the people inside Burma are saying about this project,” said Aung Zaw, editor of ‘The Irrawaddy’, a current affairs magazine and website published by Burmese journalists living in exile in Thailand. “The pipeline symbolises the relationship between the two countries.”
“People in Burma believe that the Chinese influence in the economy, in politics, and on the environment is growing,” Aung Zaw told IPS. “But I think both governments need each other. For Burma it is Chinese protection and investment; for China it is Burmese resources to be exploited.”
Burma, which is also known as Myanmar, has seen its relationship with China improve over the past two decades. It follows the 1989 collapse of the Communist Party of Burma, which had been backed by Beijing and had been a thorn in the side of the Burmese military since it captured power in a1962 coup.
Beijing’s investments in Burma, such as the planned pipelines, have been most prominent in the strong ties between the two countries. China was a major factor behind the spike in Burma’s foreign investment during the 2007-2008 period, estimated at over 980 million U.S. dollars, according to Burma’s ministry of national planning and development.
The bulk of China’s investments has focused on tapping Burma’s oil and gas reserves, in addition to investing in hydroelectricity projects. Burma is reported to have the 10th largest natural gas reserves in the world. Continue reading “POLITICS: With Pipelines, China’s Footprint in Burma Expands”