The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs has the pleasure of presenting the public seminar:
‘On Your Mark, Get Set…’ Myanmar under Reform and Chinese and Japanese Economic Diplomacy
Speaker: Marc Lanteigne, Senior Research Fellow, NUPI
Since March 2011, there has been a transformation of the government of Myanmar (Burma) after the dissolution of the military regime in the country. The first stages of the governmental transition has also opened the door to economic liberalisation, including increased and more diversified foreign investment in several different sectors as sanctions have been lowered. Several economies, including in the West and in East Asia, are preparing for deeper economic engagement in Myanmar. However, there is still a sense of watching and waiting as the November 2015 elections, the first major test of the reform process and the potential transfer of political power to greater civilian actors, get closer. While anticipation builds, two countries, China and Japan, are key examples of large Asian economies which have developed strong economic and aid linkages with Myanmar in recent years.
In the case of Beijing, during the military regime period in Myanmar between 1988-2011, which led to wide international sanctions, China was one of the few major economic partners which maintained economic relations with Yangon. With trade diversification underway, and after the political issues caused by the halting of the Chinese-backed Myitsone hydropower project, there is the question of whether China will be able to maintain the same degree of economic visibility in Myanmar. Nonetheless, China still views Yangon as an important economic partner. As for Tokyo, there has been a flurry of infrastructure projects and services agreements being developed with Yangon in recent years. Although there has been discussion of a growing Sino-Japanese ‘aid contest’ in Myanmar, the reality is that the two Asian economies have often taken different economic paths in engaging Yangon, and are both crucial case studies in understanding the role of foreign actors in the Myanmar economic reform process.