Chinese investment in Myanmar could push India to deepen regional cooperation

13 July 2017
Chinese investment in Myanmar could push India to deepen regional cooperation
Shwe Gas terminal in Kyauk Phyu, Rakhine State.Photo: Nyunt Win/EPA

While ramping up efforts to help mediate between Myanmar's government and rebel groups, China needs and will most likely be willing to step up investment in the country to promote local economic development, which is a cornerstone of social stability and could thus offer support to Myanmar's peace process. 
Economic and political issues are always two sides of the same coin. Myanmar urgently needs to maintain steady and relatively rapid economic growth, ensuring that each interest group can get more benefit from social stability, which will create a good atmosphere for the parties in the conflict to make concessions. 
As a key strategic location connecting China and India, Myanmar is reportedly ramping up efforts to make itself a new offshore trading hub in Asia. The move reflects Myanmar's desire to integrate itself into the Asian industrial chain in a bid to rely more on foreign businesses to revitalize the economy, especially at a time when inbound investment into the country is slowing. 
As Myanmar's largest trade partner and largest source of investment, China is crucial for Myanmar's external-policy strategy. India is going all out to make the visit by Myanmar's military chief a resounding success following tensions on the border between India and China, but there is no reason for China to feel any anxiety. Myanmar is unlikely to do a stupid thing like supporting India's stand on the tensions in the border area, as that would risk cutting its economic ties with China. There is tremendous potential for further economic and trade cooperation between China and Myanmar. Along with the development and promotion of the Belt and Road initiative, China has been stepping up investment into Myanmar's infrastructure sector. China should continue efforts to improve infrastructure in Myanmar to promote regional economic integration and open up new trade routes toward South Asia.
In addition to Myanmar, China should keep a close eye on economic cooperation with some South Asian countries like Bangladesh to promote economic integration. This could promote the formation of a string of active economic development zones surrounding India, which would not be a bad thing if it could place pressure on New Delhi to deepen its economic cooperation with neighboring countries. Hopefully India could make a greater contribution to improving infrastructure in Myanmar under the framework of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor. This would help to connect the markets in India, China and Southeast Asia, the world's three most active economic regions.
The author is a reporter with the Global Times. [email protected]