…Behind the bonhomie and poems of friendship, China’s relationship with its impoverished southeastern neighbor and erstwhile ally formerly known as Burma is deeply troubled.
This was bought sharply into relief last August when Myanmar’s military overwhelmed and disarmed the Kokang rebel group, triggering an exodus of more than 37,000 refugees into China, prompting an unusual outburst of anger from Beijing.
“I wouldn’t characterize them as friends, in the way Britain and America or Australia and New Zealand could be regarded as friends. It’s often a tense and difficult relationship,” said Ian Storey, a fellow at Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.
“It’s basically a marriage of convenience. The Burmese rely on China for money and armaments, and China uses its position at the U.N. Security Council to protect Burma to some extent, in return for which China gets access to the country’s natural resources, and it gets a voice in ASEAN,” he added.