For multiple historical, ethnic, geographic, political, and economic reasons, China has been and will remain an integral player in Myanmar’s internal peace process, particularly regarding the ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar. Informed by numerous interviews in both China and Myanmar, this Special Report examines China’s positions, policies, and role in that process.
China’s interest in the Myanmar peace process is focused on the armed ethnic groups along the border in Kachin and Shan states—in particular, the Kachin Independence Army, the United Wa State Army, and the Kokang Army. These organizations have historical and cultural ties with ethnic groups across the border in China as well as political and economic connections.
China’s official position follows the principle of noninterference and its official policy is “persuading for peace and facilitating dialogues.” In practice, its attitude has been more ambiguous.
Beijing does not necessarily believe that comprehensive peace is attainable for the foreseeable future. Its priority is therefore to prepare for different uncertainties and maximize its flexibility in the process.
China’s role is complicated by the behavior of certain Chinese special interest groups and individuals who have offered direct financial support for ethnic armed organizations in Myanmar.
Under Myanmar’s new National League for Democracy government, ties with China have improved significantly. China has played a positive role in persuading armed groups to join the Union Peace Conference in 2016, but its future policy and role will depend on the development of bilateral relations and the evolving definition of China’s national interests.
Progressive Voice is a participatory rights-based policy research and advocacy organization rooted in civil society, that maintains strong networks and relationships with grassroots organizations and community-based organizations throughout Myanmar. It acts as a bridge to the international community and international policymakers by amplifying voices from the ground, and advocating for a rights-based policy narrative.