China’s Xi vows ‘new era’ of Myanmar ties after red carpet welcome

Naypyidaw: Chinese President Xi Jinping vowed to usher in a “new era” of ties with Myanmar after a red carpet welcome Friday on a state visit aimed at buttressing the embattled government of Aung San Suu Kyi and driving through multi-billion-dollar infrastructure deals.

Myanmar fighter jets escorted Xi’s plane as it touched down in Naypyidaw where children presented him with flowers, according to China’s official Xinhua news agency, as he was whisked off to a greeting party. In addition to being its largest investor, China has become an indispensable ally for Myanmar as it reels from Western isolation over the Rohingya crisis.

But widespread mistrust of Beijing’s ambitions and its influence over armed insurgencies in areas bordering the two countries threaten to undermine the bond. Xi told Myanmar leaders he was “convinced that the concerted efforts of our two sides will make this visit a success and take the bilateral ties to a new level and into a new era,” Xinhua reported.

During the trip he is expected to sign a series of mammoth infrastructure deals as part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — a global trade plan that promises to change the face of Myanmar. The centrepiece of the so-called China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) is a USD 1.3-billion deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state, giving Beijing a gateway to the Indian Ocean. A high-speed rail link is also on the cards to connect the port and nearby planned industrial zone with the countries’ shared border. Xi will sit down with Suu Kyi and army chief Min Aung Hlaing in separate meetings on Saturday. Ahead of the visit Suu Kyi made a rare appearance in Kachin state on the border with China.

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