China’s Self-interest in Myanmar must not Undermine the People’s Revolution

March 8th, 2023  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  7 minute read
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If China truly wants to see peace and stability in Myanmar, it must stop playing a dangerous game taking side with and aiding and abetting the murderous junta, including supporting technical and lethal weapons for the military junta, the very perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the people of Myanmar, and the root of decades-long conflict and violence in Myanmar. 

In the wake of the ongoing Spring Revolution, a visit by China’s Special Envoy to Myanmar to meet with some major ethnic revolutionary organizations (EROs) highlights China’s approach in Myanmar. Deng Xijun, China’s Special Envoy to Myanmar, met the representatives of seven EROs including the Kachin Independence Army, the Arakan Army (AA) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) at separate times and places in Shan State. This is the second trip that Deng Xijun has made within three months of his appointment and was devoted to persuading the EROs,  three of whom are now actively participating in the Spring Revolution, to reach some form of ceasefire with the junta. In other words, to cease participating in armed resistance against the illegal junta.

Despite its call for an end to violence, China continues to supply military equipment and arms to the military junta. Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, asserted in the Conference room paper of the Special Rapporteur to the 49th regular session of the Human Rights Council that China continues to provide the Myanmar military with arms including fighter jets and armored vehicles since the attempted coup in 2021. Nevertheless, China is not the only power supplying Myanmar’s junta and condoning its atrocities. Russia, Serbia and India still support the military junta by supplying weapons and have continued to do so since the 2021 coup attempt.

Deng Xijun’s trip also signals that China sees the West, particularly US support for the National Unity Government (NUG), the People’s Defence Force (PDF) and the EROs as adopted in the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act as a major concern. It seems that China wants to maintain its “big brother” status mentality over the EROs, particularly in the northern part of the country along the China-Myanmar border.

Myanmar has gained a geopolitical headache with China since its independence from Britain in 1948. Particularly after the coup staged by the Myanmar military in 1988, successive Myanmar military juntas and quasi-civilian governments have resorted to taking refuge in China’s power, finding ways to evade international sanctions and justice and accountability for its grave crimes committed against the people of Myanmar. Under the euphemistic “Pauk-Phaw” which can be translated into “fraternal friendship” in Burmese between the two neighboring countries, Beijing has never taken a full side with the democratic opposition throughout the political history of Myanmar, instead ramping up its support for successive military regimes for its own advantage. While China has shielded the military junta from international justice and provided support through variety of means, including military equipment, it has also fueled it by providing guns and ammunition to both sides and taking advantage of a situation between complete peace and full-flung conflict. Now again, it obviously wants to grip onto that status quo in order to create a condition that favors the military junta, thus ensuring China’s geopolitical strategic dominance and the stable operations of its massive investment projects in Myanmar.

As the biggest trade partner of Myanmar, China has expressed concerns about its major investment projects that range from oil pipelines and mining to deep-sea ports. Those projects cover different parts throughout the country from Shan State’s Muse Township in the northern part to Rakhine State’s Kyaukphyu Township in the western part. China has never condemned the illegal attempted coup of the Myanmar military, referring to the “major cabinet reshuffle” since 1 February  2021, nor has it obviously revoked its relationship with the National League for Democracy which constitutes a majority in the NUG and Committee Representing the Pyidaungsu Hluttaw. As the Spring Revolution represents a solidarity of different political forces and diverse communities including the Bamar majority against the monstrous military, the double standards of China on the military junta and the armed resistance, based on its on vested interests, must not undermine the Myanmar people’s struggle for federal democracy.

If China wishes to seek a good relationship with and gain support and good reputation from the Myanmar people, it is time for China to make the right decision. If the ongoing crisis resulted from the military’s bloody failed coup is “absolutely not what China wants to see”, why can’t China be a genuinely responsible neighbor that respects the will and interest of the people of Myanmar? If China truly wants to see peace and stability in Myanmar, it must stop playing a dangerous game of taking sides with and aiding and abetting the murderous junta. It must stop providing technical support and lethal weapons for the military junta, the very perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes against the people of Myanmar, and the root cause of decades-long conflict and violence in Myanmar. Furthermore, as a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China should comply with its mandate and obligations and stop blocking Myanmar people’s call for a global arms embargo including on aviation fuel, and pursue accountability and justice.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


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New EU Burma Sanctions Well Targeted – More Needed

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By CSO Working Group on Independent National Human Rights Institution (Burma/Myanmar)

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, the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)

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, the Asian NGO Network on National Human Rights Institutions (ANNI)

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JFM welcomes latest round of EU sanctions imposed on the Myanmar junta and its arms and jet fuel suppliers

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OIC ASG for Political Affairs and UN Special Envoy on Myanmar discuss the possibility of holding joint international conference to upscale education for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh and the region

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Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”