China, People's Republic of (PRC), Relations with

   The Union of Burma was the first noncommunist state to extend diplomatic recognition to the People's Republic of China (on December 17, 1949), and it supported Beijing's claim to China's seat in the United Nations. Prime Minister U Nu and China's premier, Zhou En-lai, agreed to abide by the "five principles of peaceful coexistence," which included noninterference in each other's domestic affairs. Both countries saw the presence of Kuomintang (Guomindang) forces in Shan State, backed by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, as a threat to their sovereignty. However, illegal Chinese immigrants in Burma, the presence of exiled members of the Communist Party of Burma (CPB) on Chinese soil, and the complex issue of border demarcation were potentially divisive issues. Border issues were resolved with the ratification of a treaty in January 1961, in which China and Burma exchanged small parcels of land in Shan and Kachin States and China relinquished claims to larger areas. Beijing began supplying Burma with foreign aid, and a joint ChineseBurmese military operation was carried out against the Kuomintang irregulars in early 1961.
   Thus, relations were cordial, characterized by Zhou En-lai and Ne Win, who himself was Sino-Burmese, as ties between pauk paw, "distant cousins." But anti-Chinese riots in June 1967 constituted the greatest diplomatic crisis in independent Burma's short history. As a result of Burmese mob attacks on the Chinese embassy in Rangoon (Yangon) and the killing of an embassy official, the Chinese ambassador was recalled, foreign aid was suspended, and Chinese propaganda called for the overthrow of the "fascist dictator" Ne Win. With Chinese logistical support, the CPB established a strong base along the China-Burma border in Shan State that soon became the most powerful and best-organized antigovernment insurgency. Although Beijing's support for the CPB diminished during the 1980s, it continued under the pretext of "fraternal party relations" between Chinese and Burmese communists-even after state-to-state relations were normalized in the early 1970s.
   The seizure of power by the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC) in September 1988 signaled a new era of much closer relations. Desperate for external props, the new military regime legalized China-Burma border trade, and in October 1989, sent a toplevel delegation headed by Lieutenant General Than Shwe to Beijing to meet with Chinese leaders. Thereafter, China sold Burma more than US$2 billion in weapons, including tanks, patrol boats, and fighter jets; modernized Burmese naval installations located on the Indian Ocean; and provided training for Tatmadaw personnel. It has also played an important role in encouraging cease-fires between the SLORC and ethnic armed groups near the border (the dissolution of the CPB in early 1989 removed a major irritant in Beijing-Rangoon relations). Buttressed by state and private interests in neighboring Yunnan Province, the Chinese economic presence increased dramatically in the 1990s, not only along the border but also in Mandalay and other parts of Upper Burma, where a large but unspecified number of new Chinese residents have settled. Many Chinese immigrants purchased the identification cards of deceased Burmese, allowing them to live freely in the country.
   After 1988, China exercised virtually unchallenged economic influence in the country, supplanting Japan, which before 1988 enjoyed a privileged position because of its close historical ties with Burmese leaders and foreign aid. Modernization of the naval base and schemes to open a transportation corridor between Yunnan Province to the Indian Ocean by way of Arakan (Rakhine) State have been cause for concern in India, China's regional rival.
   For China, the relationship is not without problems. The powerful United Wa State Army (UWSA) threatens peace along the border; moreover, opium, heroin, and other narcotics produced by the UWSA and other armed groups in the Wa and Kokang districts of Shan State flow into China, creating major drug abuse and crime problems, especially in Yunnan.
   Beijing and Rangoon's authoritarian leaders have similar worldviews, especially concerning the defense of national sovereignty, though some Tatmadaw officers resented Khin Nyunt, the principal backer of close bilateral relations, for selling out the country's independence to Beijing; this was apparently the motive for an assassination plot against him in 1992. It is unclear whether the purge of Khin Nyunt in October 2004 has had a significant impact on Beijing-Rangoon relations, but Chinese moral and material support has been a key factor in the State Peace and Development Council's ability to ignore international criticism and Western sanctions.
   See also China and Burma (Historical Relations).

Historical Dictionary of Burma (Myanmar). . 2014.

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