Myanmar's Suu Kyi begins first visit to China

Opposition leader and Nobel laureate to meet Chinese leaders to strengthen ties between two neighbors

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi began her first visit to China on Wednesday aiming to improve relations, while China is expected to mention its anger over Myanmar's fight with rebels along China's border.

Suu Kyi will meet Chinese leaders in Beijing, including President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang on the June 10-14 trip, but it is not known if she will make any public appearances.

China is Myanmar's most important neighbour, but Myanmar's government has sought to decrease its heavy dependence on China since 2011. China hopes to shore up its declining influence as the south-east Asian nation shifted toward western countries, Japan and other potential investors in recent years.

People in Myanmar have blocked Chinese dam and copper mine projects over environmental concerns over last few years. China considers Myanmar strategically important as a gateway to the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal, and wants to secure oil and gas pipelines in its south-east Asian neighbour.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's visit will also be closely watched by activists who have been pressuring her to bring up Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's jail term and China's crackdown on dissent with President Xi.

Hu Jia, a Chinese prominent dissident and close friend of Liu Xiaobo, told Reuters that if Suu Kyi does not call for Liu's release, "it will bring some degree of regret."

"Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi is a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and in Chinese prison, there sits another Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. This is an unavoidable topic for the Chinese Communist Party and is extremely embarrassing," he said.

Another important issue between two countries is the ongoing fighting between Myanmar's military and Kokang rebels near Chinese border. The relations of the two countries strained after several incidents of cross-border fire killed and injured Chinese citizens who live in the area. China also reacted strongly when almost 60,0000 people crossed its border, escaping the fierce battle.

Suu Kyi has become an icon of democracy for her defiance of Myanmar's former military rulers that were supported by China. But China has been keen to engage Suu Kyi’s party when she became a member of parliament in 2012 and she has always insisted that Myanmar should retain good relations with China.

TRTWorld and agencies