Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Regional Concerns over Myanmar

Academic journal article Southeast Asian Affairs

Regional Concerns over Myanmar

Article excerpt

From the obscurity of an isolated backwater, intentionally self-divorced from many of the external political and economic currents, Myanmar emerged on the world and regional stages in 1988. The initial entry was not auspicious; attention was focused on the abortive popular revolution, its repression, and the violence and bloodshed associated with the months leading up to the September coup and its bloody aftermath. Following that trauma, the opening of the economy to both the foreign and domestic private sectors was of considerable international interest because of Myanmar's rich resource base and because it was the last of the "closed" economies of the region.

Private sector rivalries over Myanmar's economic opening did not create international concern. What did cause worry was SLORC's close alignment with China, its dependence on shipments of Chinese arms, the burgeoning overland trade with China, and a Chinese presence that became pronounced. China was SLORC's first and (for a period) only supporter. Myanmar became economically linked to Yunnan, as the southwestern Chinese provinces --- unable to compete with the burgeoning Chinese coastal trade to the east --- looked further south for their markets and economic expansion.

India, under Rajiv Gandhi, was concerned that Chinese influence would outflank the still disputed northeastern frontier area over which a war had been fought with China in 1962, and that Chinese activities in the Bay of Bengal were a threat to India's regional influence. …

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