Written by Li Min, Guang Qiuyun / Translated by Xie Zongming
The thirty years of China-ASEAN dialogue relations is a fruitful one and it has been the golden age for development and for strengthening the China-ASEAN ties. Recently during an interview with our journalists, H.E. U Myo Thant Pe, Ambassador of Myanmar to China, said that China-Myanmar relations are deeply intertwined with China-ASEAN relations, for which the gain in each relation will benefit the other as well.
Myanmar has gained from the closer China-ASEAN relations
China-ASEAN Panorama: 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations. What valuable experience have China and ASEAN accumulated in the past three decades? What benefits Myanmar has gained from the increasingly close China-ASEAN cooperation?
Ambassador: ASEAN was founded in 1967 and united every country in Southeast Asia. Looking back at the past of ASEAN, we have achieved a lot in many aspects, including the China-ASEAN dialogue relations established 30 years ago.
Ever since the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, the two sides have been putting efforts into bilateral cooperation, which is important for sustaining the stability and development of Southeast Asia and the prosperity and regional cooperation of East Asia. Actually, this is not just for Southeast Asia or East Asia, but in the long term, it will benefit the whole world.
The basis of cooperation among ASEAN members lies on three pillars: political stability and regional security; economic development and cooperation; as well as cultural cooperation. China has been in cooperation with ASEAN in aspects involving the three pillars mentioned.
Regarding the economy, China is very important to ASEAN. In terms of investment, quite an amount of investment has flowed to ASEAN from China and vice versa. The two sides have started a lot of joint ventures and maintained or explored economic cooperation in various fields, such as forestry, agriculture, media, information, and education.
Regarding cultural exchanges, there are thousands of ASEAN students studying in China. Also, various kinds of organizations and institutions have been promoting the cultural exchanges between ASEAN and China. Therefore, the cooperation between ASEAN and China includes several aspects.
Finally, this is an important one, after the outbreak of the COVID-19, China has been consistent in China-ASEAN cooperation against the pandemic. The consensus reached in this pandemic is the latest outcome of ASEAN-China cooperation.
Myanmar, who is also an important member of the ASEAN, has gained a lot from ASEAN-China relations.
CAEXPO is not only for trade in promoting China-ASEAN relations
China-ASEAN Panorama: As an efficient public platform for China-ASEAN cooperation, China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO) has been successfully held for 17 consecutive years. Your Excellency has participated in the CAEXPO before. What impressed you most? The 18th CAEXPO will continue to be held both offline and online, what is your expectation for the 18th CAEXPO to be held in September?
Ambassador: Myanmar has been actively participating in almost every year’s CAEXPO and CABIS since the first meeting 17 years ago. Myanmar’s head of state and senior government officials also have attended these meetings along with strictly selected delegations. I myself have attended the meetings many times, including the last one in 2020. I’m very happy to be able to attend these great events.
Some say that CAEXPO and CABIS are simply for the trade, but I say otherwise. They are also for exploring areas of cooperation between Guangxi and ASEAN as well as between China and ASEAN. Many areas of cooperation have been discovered by the platform of CAEXPO and CABIS, such as agriculture, energy, mining, media, information, culture, education, and so on. CAEXPO has attracted many people from ASEAN countries to Nanning as well. It also promotes cultural exchanges.
This year’s CAEXPO will also be hybrid with online meetings and offline meetings, I remember. I believe that this year, both sides will make the commitment to further enhancing the ASEAN-China cooperation and collaboration, and discuss the ASEAN-China cooperation and collaboration on the post-pandemic economic recovery. These are my expectations for the upcoming 18th CAEXPO.
Myanmar will provide a helping hand when China needs
China-ASEAN Panorama: In recent years, especially since the outbreak of the pandemic, what has the Embassy of Myanmar in China done to promote China-Myanmar relations? What work will be carried out next?
Ambassador: In January 2020, President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar and came up with the plan for jointly building the China-Myanmar community with a shared future. Under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, Myanmar and China are set to build the Myanmar-China Economic Corridor. This is another great achievement in Myanmar-China cooperation and development.
Myanmar-China relations are usually described in a traditional Burmese word “baopo friendship”, which literally means “sibling friendship”. It accurately generalizes Myanmar-China relations. The people-to-people exchange stands out in Myanmar-China relations. Myanmar and China share more than 2,000km2 of land border. The two peoples on the border understand each other and share the same daily life routine. They also shared a very similar history.
So throughout history, we have faced many difficulties together. COVID-19 is also one of the difficulties. Last year, especially from February to April, Chinese people were having a hard time due to the pandemic. There’s a saying I feel true of: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” Compared to China, Myanmar is a small country. We haven’t the resources that could match China’s. Even so, We did what we can, donating 5,000 tons of rice to Wuhan, because we wanted to help. This might not be much, but it is the message we want to send that Myanmar will provide help when China needed and we want Chinese people to know our determination.
All of the staff of the Embassy, including myself, have a close relationship with Chinese people just as other Myanmar people. During the pandemic, we did a lot for promoting Myanmar-China bilateral relations and we keep encouraging Chinese people. At that time, many media agencies contacted me and asked me to record a video clip saying “Hold on, Wuhan; hold on, China” in Chinese. As an Ambassador, that’s the least I could do. We are glad that China has had the situation under control in 3 months.
Meanwhile, Myanmar has been receiving aid from the Chinese government, Chinese non-governmental organizations, and Chinese people. To control the spread of the virus, China has shipped many supplies to Myanmar, such as face masks, sanitizers, and test equipment. Furthermore, China has sent two medical teams to Myanmar, which is very special. Myanmar has received 500,000 doses of free Chinese vaccine as part of the aid. There are 2,000,000 more on the way (which arrived in Myanmar on July 24, 2021 after the interview). We sincerely thank China for their helping hand.
Myanmar will fight along with the Chinese government and Chinese people against the pandemic. It was so in the past, it is so now, and it will be so in the future. This is my commitment.