China’s economic offensive and its discontent in Southeast Asia: A crucial case study of Sino-Myanmar relations

Although the rise of an economically powerful China benefits many developing countries, many worry about China’s surging regional and global influences, especially in Southeast Asia. It is true that China rises fast but how successfully does it translate its rising power into actual influences remains a question. In this study I answer the questions by examining a crucial case of Sino-Myanmar relationship. Because Myanmar relies heavily on China, it should be more easily to be influenced by China.

If, however, Myanmar was less cooperative under such imbalanced relationship, then China’s actual influence may be exaggerated. Evidences in this paper indicates that since Myanmar started political reform in 2011, it has deviated from China’s positions regarding issues of human rights and building nuclear-free world. Furthermore China’s influence is not well-received by local communities due to its exploitative economic adventure. It encounters more discordance of political systems with its partners and conflicts with local people. As a consequence, China’s soft footprints does not appear as strong and welcome as perceived. The power from interdependent relationship requires political and social cohesion to take hold.

Keyword: China, Myanmar, Soft Power, Economic Interdependence, Crucial Case

Author: Ian Tsung-yen Chen

Status: Working paper

History: This paper will be presented at the workshop “China’s ‘Soft’ Power in Southeast Asia”, Manila, Philippines, August 2014.

Full Text: Download here