Xi visits Myanmar to drive home Belt and Road plan

Chinese President Xi Jinping will meet with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during his forthcoming visit to Myanmar.

MYANMAR: Chinese President Xi Jinping arrives in Myanmar this week to nail down multi-billion-dollar infrastructure deals in a country abandoned by many in the West appalled at the "genocide" of Rohingya Muslims on leader Aung San Suu Kyi's watch.

Xi's two-day visit, his first as president, will seek to cement Beijing's position as Myanmar's largest investor and strategic partner.

The much-trumpeted China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) aims to connect the Middle Kingdom to the Indian Ocean, a key route in Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative that envisions Chinese infrastructure and influence spanning the globe.

In addition to offering tens of billions of dollars in investment, China shields its neighbour at the United Nations, where pressure is mounting for accountability over the Rohingya crisis.

The headline deal will likely be a colossal factory zone and deep-sea port in Rakhine state, which lies on Myanmar's west coast beside the Bay of Bengal.

Myanmar successfully slashed the cost of Kyaukphyu port from $7.2 billion to $1.3 billion, reducing the chance of it turning into a debt trap.

Billions of cubic metres of gas and millions of barrels of oil from offshore rigs are pumped each year across the country to China.

Beijing now wants to secure plans for a high-speed rail link between the port and China's landlocked Yunnan province.

Other key projects include industrial zones on the shared border and a makeover for commercial hub Yangon.

Chinese Vice-Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui last week cryptically said the two nations remained in "close communication" on the issue.

Xi will meet both Suu Kyi and powerful army chief Min Aung Hlaing to deepen ties. - AFP



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