— An exclusive interview with H.E. Chen Hai, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar
The year 2020 marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Myanmar. Chinese President Xi Jinping paid a historic visit to Myanmar earlier this year, embarking on a new journey of bilateral relations. Later, China and Myanmar have confronted many challenges brought by the COVID-19. Against this background, how will China and Myanmar write a new chapter for bilateral relations?
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Myanmar, Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar H.E. Chen Hai gave an interview with China-ASEAN Panorama Magazine Agency. In the beginning, Chen said, “What impressed me most recently was the remarks delivered by Chinese President Xi Jinping to CPPCC members at this year’s Two Sessions — ‘Cultivating new opportunities in the midst of the crisis and opening a new one in the midst of changes’. This holds true for China-Myanmar relations and the building of a community of shared future.” Under this backdrop, China-Myanmar relations will bear promising prospects.
Jointly fight against the COVID-19 and further cement bilateral friendship
China and Myanmar have carried forward traditional Pauk-Phaw friendship and a fine tradition of sharing weal and woe for thousands of years. After the outbreak of the epidemic, China and Myanmar have been close partners in fighting against the COVID-19. We received substantial supports from the government, military and all walks of life of Myanmar when we faced the brunt of the epidemic. Particularly, Myanmar’s military applied military planes to deliver medical supplies to China when Myanmar was in the absence of medical supplies. In return, after the outbreak of the COVID-19 in Myanmar, China provided Myanmar with several batches of urgently needed anti-epidemic materials, nucleic acid testing devices and laboratories, dispatched three batches of medical experts to Myanmar, and trained a large number of medical workers, effectively improving Myanmar’s capacity of epidemic prevention and control.
“In the course of epidemic prevention, Myanmar was under tremendous pressure due to its limited capability. However, led by Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar worked effectively and vigorously to control the epidemic, and reported only more than 200 confirmed cases. Such results were hard-won, especially for a country with a population of nearly 60 million and relatively weak medical equipment,” said Chen.
On May 28, the Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin had a phone call with Chen and expressed thanks again on behalf of the government of Myanmar for the assistance from China. “I believe the Myanmar government will show their appreciation with concrete actions, and amply demonstrate the brotherhood, partnership and neighborliness of the two sides, as well as the connotation of a community of shared future,” said Chen.
Chen indicated that mutual assistance and solidarity under the epidemic turned out to be a key to further consolidate the friendly relations between China and Myanmar. “By virtue of this opportunity, more efforts should be made to serve a broad cross-section of society in Myanmar. This year, China will complete building a moderately prosperous society in all respects. In this regard, China should bring along the development of Myanmar and jointly build a moderately prosperous society,” noted Chen.
CMEC to bring about a new situation
To complete the building of a moderately prosperous society in all respects as scheduled by 2020, the Chinese government will make a big push to ensure six priorities and the stability in six areas for steady economic momentum. Similarly, Myanmar also needs to confront such great challenges as ensuring security in job and basic living needs. Affected by the COVID-19, a large number of Burmese migrant workers returned home from the border provinces of Thailand and China. And many projects were suspended, putting great pressures on stabilizing economic growth. Besides, this year Myanmar will hold a general election to elect a new parliament and new leading bodies.
“Under such circumstances, Myanmar should not only promote economic development and people’s livelihood through its own efforts, but also rely on foreign trade and investment. Now, China has become an important partner in providing support to Myanmar,” said Chen.
During President Xi’s visit to Myanmar in early 2020, a number of important consensuses were reached, including the building of China-Myanmar community with a shared future. And the transition of the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) from conceptual planning to substantive construction was promoted. According to Chen, supported by China, the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar has experienced positive progress in impelling the construction of CMEC, particularly the three important projects under the framework of CMEC: China (Ruili)-Myanmar (Muse) Cross Border Economic Cooperation Zone, Kyaukpyu Deep-Water Port and Special Economic Zone, and New Yangon City Project.
Take China (Ruili)-Myanmar (Muse) Cross Border Economic Cooperation Zone as an example, its working groups have decided to carry out project docking in June, and strived to formulate plans for further border cooperation at an early date, with a view to laying a foundation for the launch of construction in the era of “post-COVID-19”. In addition, great strides have also been made in the planning and cooperation of Kyaukpyu Deep-Water Port and Special Economic Zone and New Yangon City Project.
“I believe the launch of these major projects will restore confidence in all sectors of society and inject impetus and vitality to employment and economic growth in Myanmar. On top of that, other projects including transport and power connectivity have also been pushed forward. It can see that although influenced by the epidemic, cooperation on CMEC has not been suspended but forged ahead with new opportunities,” said Chen.
Support each other and oppose external interference
“The world today is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century, and such changes further evolve in face of the epidemic,” said Chen. As injustice and inequality remain prominent in international relations, developing countries, including China and Myanmar, face new challenges in safeguarding their respective sovereignty, security and development interests.
As friendly neighbors since the establishment of diplomatic ties 70 years ago, China and Myanmar in the 1950s jointly initiated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence that are still full of strong vitality in today’s drastic changes. On issues concerning each other’s core interests and major concerns, China and Myanmar have been always supporting and understanding each other. During President Xi’s visit to Myanmar, he further reached consensus with Myanmar’s leader on jointly opposing foreign interference.
Lately, a small number of countries and some forces have been stirring up trouble over Hong Kong-related issues. On May 28, the Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin, on behalf of Myanmar, expressed supports for China’s measures to enact a national security law on Hong Kong to safeguard national security, and clearly showed the support for the principle of “One Country, Two Systems,” and Hong Kong’s prosperity and stability.
Meanwhile, the peace and development of Myanmar have been also subjected to the interference of some western forces. In line with Myanmar’s issues and concerns, China has played a constructive role in upholding justice for Myanmar on issues such as the Rakhine State.
“I think there are rooms where China and Myanmar can strengthen cooperation amid profound changes in the international and regional situation,” noted Chen.
Hoping CAEXPO can enter Myanmar
Chen has a special affection for and speaks highly of the CAEXPO since he once worked for the CAEXPO Secretariat and took part in the planning and organizing work of CAEXPO. “Over the past 16 years, CAEXPO has acted as a vital platform to promote China-ASEAN friendly exchanges, economic and trade exchanges and cooperation in various fields, as well as a bridge to enhance mutual political trust between China and ASEAN countries,” said Chen.
In the new era, the relationship between China and ASEAN and the role of the CAEXPO will be more notable. Chen indicated that he is not only looking forward to the fruitful results in the upcoming 17th CAEXPO, but also hoping the CAEXPO can enter Myanmar at an appropriate time.
“Myanmar as a member of ASEAN boasts second-mover advantages with a large population and abundant resources. Since the government of Myanmar attached great importance to the CAEXPO and the Ministry of Commerce of Myanmar incorporated the CAEXPO into the key exhibitions every year, the enthusiasm of the business community runs high, bringing favorable results and expanded scales of participation. Besides, Myanmar’s jewelry, jade, coffee tea, mango and other products are popular in China,” expressed Chen. He said that he is looking forward to holding CAEXPO-related professional exhibitions and other activities in Myanmar, and is willing to proactively participate in and promote the CAEXPO, so as to help exert the due role of CAEXPO.
· Source: China-ASEAN Panorama