With the military government of Myanmar/Burma launching a violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, much attention is being paid in the international media to what role China can and should play in influencing the outcome. Foreign Policy blog interviews Burma expert Bill Overholt about how much influence China could really exert over their neighbor and friend. Overholt says:
China has interests and involvements in Burma, but limited leverage. Burma is not some kind of client state of China. It is a xenophobic, divided, tribalized country with a nationalistic government; it bears more resemblance to one of the less coherent sub-Saharan African states than to most other East Asian countries. It’s not an easy place to influence. Through most of the 1980s there was a Burmese Communist Party, which consisted primarily of the Wa tribe plus Chinese leadership. When the Wa decided to turn anti-communist in the late 1980s and chased the Chinese leadership into China, China’s influence in the country was drastically reduced but there was little China could do without military intervention. So Beijing basically sat by passively when it happened. [Full text]
– a New York Times article “A Crucial Myanmar Ally, China Hopes for Return to Stability”
– “China’s dilemma over Burma protests” from the Telegraph.
Update: See “Russia and China dig in their heels over Burma as the West calls for UN sanctions” from the Financial Times and “Burmese Blood on China’s Hands” from Spiegel.