From Impediment to Adaptation: Chinese Investments in Myanmar’s New Regulatory Environment

SiuSue Mark, Youyi Zhang

Abstract


Myanmar’s political transition of 2011 was followed by changes in the political and economic realms of society. The transition emboldened social activism, expressed as protests regarding the injustices suffered by people under the military regime. Many of these protests were related to large-scale extractive investments that had little regard for local communities and the environment. After the West lifted most of its sanctions, transnational capital actors who had been absent for the previous two decades returned to the country, many of them offering higher investment standards. In response to the “push” of public pressure and the “pull” of new investments, reformists in the Government of Myanmar (GoM) are now attempting to implement a stronger investment regulatory framework. The GoM’s new demands on foreign investments to comply with higher investment standards are strengthened by Chinese state reformers’ own nascent efforts to curtail the excesses of that country’s state-owned enterprises globally. As a result, prominent SOEs are being pressured to adapt to the new operating environment, resulting in observable changes in investment behaviour. We conclude that reform efforts are challenged by limitations on reformist state actors’ autonomy and capacity to regulate investments.

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