China reaffirmed its stance as a “friendly neighbor of Myanmar” on Monday hours after Myanmar’s military staged a coup, detaining the country’s top government officials and declaring a one-year state of emergency.
“We have noted what happened in Myanmar, and we are learning more information on the situation,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said at a routine press briefing on February 1.
“China is a friendly neighbor of Myanmar. We hope that all parties in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitutional and legal framework and maintain political and social stability,” he added.
“As Myanmar’s largest trading partner, China’s trade volume with Myanmar accounts for more than 33 percent of Myanmar’s total trade volume, according to data released by China’s Ministry of Commerce in 2020. Therefore, a stable political situation in Myanmar is conducive to exchanges and development between the two countries,” the Chinese state-run Global Times noted on Monday.
Myanmar’s military executed a coup in the early hours of February 1. Soldiers detained Aung San Suu Kyi, who led Myanmar as state counsellor — a role similar to that of a prime minister — along with President U Win Myint and other senior Myanmar politicians in pre-dawn raids.
The military declared a one-year state of emergency, revealing that Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing would take charge of the country for the next 12 months. The army said that the seizure of power was necessary because Myanmar’s government had failed to act on the military’s claims of fraud during the country’s parliamentary elections in November. Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party won the November elections, securing a majority of seats in the Myanmar parliament. The army-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) has alleged that the NLD committed voter fraud in the election.
The actions of Myanmar’s military on Monday “can be seen as an adjustment to the country’s dysfunctional power structure,” China’s Global Times argued this week.
“The military and USDP lawmakers together account for only about one-third of the seats in the Myanmar parliament, making it difficult to push their proposals, and they are unable to block proposals from the NLD,” an unnamed political “expert” told the newspaper, noting that “the military and the USDP may feel that their interests could not be guaranteed.”
“China has maintained good relations with both the current government and the military, and it hopes that the two sides can reach a compromise through negotiations to maintain peace and stability. They also noted the country should be wary of possible external interference,” the Global Times added.
Myanmar is China’s closest ally in Southeast Asia and is a signatory of Beijing’s infrastructure-building Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has established Chinese-made oil and gas lines across the country in recent years. Beijing has maintained close ties with Myanmar in recent months as part of its efforts to build a proposed rail route and seaport in the country that would allow China easier access to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean from its landlocked provinces.