Category Archives: Myanmar

“China State Media at Odds Over Myanmar Censorship Move”

If there’s anything I like more than seeing the propaganda machine trip itself up, I can’t think of it right now (via WSJ):

News on Monday that Myanmar had decided to end press censorship has prompted different takes from Chinese media outlets, as well as doubts from the online community that China will its own tight restrictions anytime soon.

The website of the People’s Daily, the Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper, covered the news in a fairly evenhanded way on Monday, going so far as to quote a local journalist in Rangoon saying, “this is a great day for all Myanmar journalists.”

The People’s Daily post marked the latest instance over the past two weeks in which the paper – which is often criticized online – met with public praise. It won accolades last week with a commentary that offered public support to the mother of a rape victim who was sent to a labor camp after pushing tougher punishment for the men who allegedly attacked her daughter.

The Global Times, a nationalist-leaning tabloid published by the People’s Daily, was less supportive. In an editorial on Tuesday, it said China should never follow Myanmar’s model.

“China’s reform process has been baptized and tested thousands of times, while Myanmar’s reform is just about to bud,” read the editorial. “We would be naïve and childish if we doubt ourselves because we, a well-grown tree, look different from a flower bud.”

“China has been on the track of liberalizing the press for a long time, and will go further in the future,” it read. “We should proceed based on the national situation, instead of being panicked and making backwards countries like Myanmar and Vietnam our totem.”

Many online wondered whether China, with its tight media controls, would follow. “It seems that only North Korea and us are left now,” one Weibo user observed. “When will this great day come to China’s journalists?” asked another.

Others sounded more skeptical. “May I ask, does Myanmar delete Weibo posts?” wrote Pan Shiyi, a prominent real-estate developer, on his verified Sina Weibo’s account, referring to China’s censors deleting unfavorable online posts — a practice that has become increasingly frequent as use of social media grows in the country.

Also, good quotes from Bill Bishop in another article:

Bishop says Beijing’s current policy of blocking any online material it deems objectionable does seem unsustainable, partly because it is increasingly unpopular with the Chinese public.

“If you are a participant on Chinese social media, you know censorship is going on, and it is regularly mocked and criticized quite vociferously.” says Bishop, who points out that the Chinese Internet was buzzing with conversation on the Burma issue.

“People on Weibo [social media site] were making unfavorable comparisons between China, Burma, and North Korea, and joking that North Korea would open up their media before China. I think that’s a bit extreme, but it just shows that people do know what’s going on and I think that kind of knowledge becomes very corrosive,” said Bishop.

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“Up to 10,000 Myanmar refugees seek refuge in China”

Reuters reports that refugees from the fighting in northern Myanmar are spilling into Yunnan:

Up to 10,000 refugees have fled to an area in southwestern Yunnan province, driven by fighting between Myanmar’s military and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the country’s most powerful rebel groups, five aid groups told Reuters. Many of the refugeees are women, children and elderly people.

Fighting erupted after a 17-year-old ceasefire broke down last June, sending ethnic Kachins fleeing to the border area.

Although the intensity of the fighting has eased, aid groups fear that more people will flee and exacerbate dire conditions. The Chinese government tolerates the camps, but does not officially recognise their existence.

The risk of fighting spreading across the highly militarised border region and of the arrival of new waves of refugees are particular worries for China’s stability-obsessed rulers.

Although long wary of poor, unstable Myanmar, China has invested heavily in the country. It has brushed off Western sanctions to build infrastructure, hydropower dams and twin oil-and-gas pipelines to help feed southern China’s growing energy needs and avoid the Malacca Strait shipping bottleneck.

Yunnan provincial authorities have told the refugees to leave, but have not threatened force or sealed the border, aid groups said.

“It poses a dilemma for the Chinese; it could cause strained relations with the Burmese government if they are seen as being supportive of the Kachin Independence Army, KIA, and by extension the refugees,” Bertil Lintner, a Myanmar expert, said in emailed comments.

“On the other hand, they can’t be too hostile to the Kachins, and the Kachin refugees, either.”

“At the moment, what we know is that there is no such situation,” Li Hui, director of the Yunnan information office, told Reuters. “Everything is normal on the China-Myanmar border.”

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Filed under Chinese foreign policy, Myanmar, refugees

“China looks across Asia”

Reuters has a new piece on Chinese foreign policy, and the changing picture they see:

None of China’s festering territorial disputes is near resolution. Its growing economic and military reach continues to stir worry in many parts of Asia. And despite vows of mutual goodwill, Beijing remains wary of U.S. intentions and alliances, including Obama’s push for a new regional free trade pact.

One theme is that the United States is bent on “encircling” China, an idea reflected in recent commentaries in state-run newspapers suggesting that U.S. pressure was behind Myanmar’s decision to suspend work on a controversial Chinese-funded dam.

China has seen the former Burma as a bulwark on it southwest border, and a conduit for trade and energy imports.

“(China) fears that some countries are pulling in major powers from the outside to counter-balance China, or that some neighbours are teaming up against China,” a team of researchers from a Chinese state think tank said in a recent study of Beijing’s regional dilemmas.

Even as Beijing leaders have sought to tamp down regional tensions, media commentaries and harder-line quarters have warned that China remains beset by potential strategic traps.

Last month, for example, the Chinese Ministry of Defence published on its website an essay warning that Japan and India were entering into the disputes over the South China Sea, where Beijing claims most of the potentially energy-rich ocean floor.

“The South China Sea presents far greater strategic needs for Japan than it does for China,” said the essay by Zhang Wenmu, a professor of strategic studies at the Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics, who is well-known for his hawkish views. “Only major strategic needs can produce structural strategic conflict.”

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Filed under Chinese foreign policy, Myanmar, South China Sea