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Suu Kyi's visit shows neighbors will continue to be friends in new era

Updated: 2016-08-24 07:36
By Wang Hui (China Daily)

Suu Kyi's visit shows neighbors will continue to be friends in new era

Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi visits the Museum of Terra-cotta Warriors and Horses of Qin Shihuang, in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi province, Aug 20, 2016. Aung San Suu Kyi began a five-day official visit to China on Aug 17. [Photo by Mu Jialiang/for chinadaily.com.cn]

Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi wound up a five-day visit to China on Sunday. As the outside world is eager to know how the two neighbors will recalibrate their relations now that the Southeast Asian country has undergone a political transition, her second visit to China in two years, drew much regional and global attention.

Both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang met and held talks with Suu Kyi, and such meetings will forge a smooth channel of communication at the highest level and help continue the traditional friendship between the two countries, and open up new horizons for reciprocal cooperation under the new conditions. Suu Kyi's visit sent a strong signal to the outside world that the two neighbors remain committed to building a healthy relationship.

Such a desirable trend is reflected in both sides' willingness to heed each other's major concerns. China is especially concerned about the fate of its major investment projects in Myanmar while national reconciliation and economic development are the top priorities for Myanmar's new government in Naypyidaw.

Several days before Suu Kyi's trip, Myanmar's President U Htin Kyaw decided to form a new commission for reviewing all proposed hydropower projects on the Irrawaddy River, including the Myitsone Dam, a project jointly funded by China and Myanmar that was suspended by the former Myanmar government in 2011.

The move does not necessarily signal a resumption of the project, but it shows the new government in Naypyidaw is willing to handle sensitive issues in China-Myanmar ties with prudence and pragmatism.

Major China-invested projects in Myanmar, such as the Myitsone Dam, are commercial deals that aimto bring win-win outcomes. Misunderstandings harbored by some Myanmar people toward Chinese investments have partly contributed to the suspension of some China-invested projects in Myanmar.

The resumption of these projects, the Myistone Dam in particular, has become a barometer for the outside world to gauge China-Myanmar ties. Myanmar's new government in Naypyidaw should do more in this regard so that bilateral cooperation can continue to deepen.

Implementing these projects would also contribute to Myanmar's efforts to develop its economy and improve people's livelihoods, which are the Myanmar government's top priorities.

As Myanmar's biggest trading partner and a key source of foreign investment, China can play an important role in Myanmar's nation building efforts.

Naypyidaw has said it supports the Belt and Road Initiative, which aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes, and this is a positive decision for Myanmar as it offers huge opportunities for it to upgrade its industrial system and improve its infrastructure, thus paving the way for its future economic development.

Chinese leaders have also pledged support for Myanmar's national reconciliation process. As a neighbor of Myanmar, China, too, has been a victim of the military clashes between Myanmar's government troops and its armed ethnic groups in recent years.

And it is beyond doubt that a stable and harmonious Myanmar is also in China's strategic interests. China hopes that all armed ethnic groups in Myanmar will participate in the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference to be held in Myanmar's capital at the end of this month.

If Beijing and Naypyidaw can respect each other's major concerns, they will find more common ground on which to build their relations, enabling them to develop to new heights. Suu Kyi's visit shows both sides are moving in the right direction.

The author is deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily Asia Pacific. jasmine@chinadailyhk.com

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