China’s Strategic Misjudgement on Myanmar

Yun SUN

Abstract


Yun Sun argues that China’s policy failures on Myanmar in 2011 are rooted in several strategic post-election misjudgements. Following President Thein Sein’s inauguration in March 2011, the Sino–Myanmar relationship was initially boosted by the establishment of a “comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership,” and China sought reciprocation for its long-time diplomatic support in the form of Myanmar’s endorsement of China’s positions on regional multilateral forums. A series of events since August have frustrated China’s aspirations, however, including Myanmar’s suspension of the Myitsone dam and the rapid improvement of its relationship with the West. Several strategic misjudgements contributed to China’s miscalculations, including on the democratic momentum of the Myanmar government, on the U.S.–Myanmar engagement and on China’s political and economic influence in the country. China’s previous definition of Myanmar as one of China’s “few loyal friends” and the foundation of its strategic blueprint has been fundamentally shaken, and China is recalibrating its expectations regarding future policies.

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