China Says West Can't Afford To Help Myanmar, But Which Rival Should It Fear?

  @SophieXSong on December 18 2013 7:17 AM
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China's President Xi Jinping (R) and Myanmar's President Thein Sein shaking hands. China is the biggest investor in Myanmar. REUTERS/China Daily

Western nations cannot afford to help lift Myanmar out of poverty, according to China, but perhaps it isn’t the U.S. that China should worry about displacing its influence in Myanmar.   

The Communist Party-controlled Global Times ran a commentary that suggested that Washington “will try to foment discord between China and [Myanmar]” to damage Chinese business relations with its neighbor, the Irrawaddy, a Burmese newspaper, reported Tuesday.

“However, [Myanmar] is unlikely to totally throw itself into the arms of the U.S. Mired in financial crisis, Western countries cannot afford to provide considerable economic assistance to [Burma],” said the commentary. “U.S. and European enterprises are reluctant to invest in a land where the investment environment is not good and the political situation is not stable.”

Since a civilian government took over Myanmar in 2011, opening the long closed-off Southeast Asian nation to the world, China has repeatedly come under fire for carrying on mining and other investment projects that benefit itself more than its impoverished neighbor.

By contrast, Japan has repeatedly committed loans to Myanmar to aid the nation in developing its backward industrial infrastructure, including a $580 million loan this month, as well as forgiving past loans, the Irrawaddy reported.

“The fresh pledge will push total economic aid promised under [Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s] administration above 150 billion yen (US$1.45 billion),” Japan’s Kyodo news agency said.

“Abe is also expected to pledge assistance in public health, agriculture and other areas to boost the living standards of ethnic minorities living near Burma’s border with China and other regions,” the Japanese news agency added.

But it will still be years before Japan or any other foreign nation can catch up with China in influence and trade ties with Myanmar. Of the $44 billion of foreign investment Myanmar has approved since 1988, China accounts for about a third with a cumulative $14.19 billion, while Japan only has $277 million, or just 0.63 percent, occupying the 11th place. The U.S. lags even further behind with just $243 million.

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