Don’t Blame China for Myanmar – Kerry Howley

As world leaders call on China to act in the Burma (aka Myanmar) crisis, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times argues that China does not have the answer:

China is not Myanmar’s biggest trading partner; Thailand is. “You keep seeing these references to Chinese oil and gas assets in Burma,” Overholt said. “The reality is that they’re trivial. China’s attitude toward Burmese gas is that the Thais have already signed up for most of it and the Indians want the rest.” China is building an oil and gas pipeline — but the gas it will carry will flow to the Middle East. This is weak stuff to hang a boycott on; Overholt calls the idea “nutty.”

So why all the focus on Beijing? The West has been repeatedly frustrated in its attempts to influence a small group of secretive generals; a decade of sanctions has not brought Myanmar closer to democracy. It may be that leaning on China — a country we expect to respond rationally to incentives — channels the need to “do something” in the same way embassy protests, candlelight vigils and online petitions do. It may also be that China is a locus of negativity already, ripe for scapegoating. Western companies with valuable oil holdings in Myanmar have attracted less attention than has China. [Full text]


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