This report analyzes the potential implication of the China Myanmar Economic Corridor on the Myanmar’s on-going peace process.
- There are two general assumptions that often underpin much of the analysis concerning China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its engagement with Myanmar’s peace process. One, China desires a peaceful Myanmar to realize its Belt and Road dreams and this will likely encourage China to push for a peace settlement in Myanmar. Two, a lack of economic development is a major contributing factor to the conflicts and development opportunities offered by the BRI to support the peace process.
- The China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), the signature project of China’s BRI in Myanmar, stretches across restive northern Myanmar, home to seven ethnic armed organizations (EAOs), none of whom are signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA). With the aim of promoting its BRI projects in Myanmar, China has proactively engaged with Myanmar’s peace process and pushed for parties to the armed conflict to sign the NCA.
- Even though China is increasingly applying pressure on EAOs in northern Myanmar to sign the NCA, evidence indicates that China’s assertive push for EAOs in northern Myanmar to join the NCA is primarily concerned with producing binding ceasefire agreements along China’s border with Myanmar, rather than pushing for a long-term peace settlement.
- The CMEC poses significant implications for the dynamics of Myanmar’s peace process and will likely exacerbate existing armed conflicts and trigger new ones. The challenges presented by the CMEC include further militarization of conflict areas, an escalation of grievances held by local communities and additional complications for the peace negotiation process. Thus, the failure to consider the long-term consequence of short-term gains could be counterproductive.
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