Myanmar’s foreign relations in the recent past have witnessed some major ups and downs, especially since the escalation of international condemnation of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government’s handling of the Rohingya crisis. On the other hand, the previous trend set by the Thein Sein government to distance Myanmar from China’s economic domination seems to have been mostly reversed. This paper examines both the domestic political logics and the international relations dynamic that have generated predicament in Myanmar’s alignment strategies. The paper argues that China has managed to convince Myanmar the benefits of a cordial bilateral relations would bring for the latter’s economic development and internal peace process. However, China’s continual support as well as Myanmar’s perception of its indispensable role in the broader geostrategic competition between China and the West nonetheless have emboldened the Myanmar government and military to feel the country can be immune from international pressure for atrocities committed toward the Muslim minorities in the Rakhine State. This miscalculation nonetheless has backfired, and has further pushed Myanmar into China’s orbit because of a renewed round of call for international sanction on the country that is facing internal ethnic strife and uncertain democratic transition.
About the Speaker
Dr Enze Han is Associate Professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration. His research interests include ethnic politics in China, China’s relations with Southeast Asia, especially with Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, and the politics of state formation in the borderland area between China, Myanmar and Thailand. Prior to Hong Kong, Dr Han was Senior Lecturer in the International Security of East Asia at SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom.