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11 Mar 2021

Reuters (UK)

Myanmar: Anti-China sentiment raises questions over Belt and Road projects

"Analysis: 'Chinese business, Out!' Myanmar anger threatens investment plans", 11 March 2021

[...] The rise in anti-China sentiment has raised questions in Myanmar business circles and in China, not only over the surge of Chinese investment in recent years but for billions of dollars earmarked for a strategic neighbour on Beijing’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan. [...]

A PetroChina official who declined to be identified said there had been no problems with the operation of the oil pipeline - the only source of crude for the state energy giant’s refinery in Kunming, Yunnan province.

Protests over the pipeline flared after a Myanmar government document leaked from a Feb. 24 meeting showed Chinese officials had asked Myanmar’s junta to provide better security - and intelligence on ethnic minority armed groups on the pipeline route.

Reuters was unable to reach officials in Myanmar for comment on the document.

“Safeguarding the security of bilateral cooperation projects is the common responsibility of both China and Myanmar,” China’s foreign ministry said in response to questions on the document, reiterating its call for “all sides in Myanmar to exercise calm and restraint” and to resolve their differences.

“This would also benefit the secure operations of bilateral cooperation projects,” it said.

China did not immediately respond to a question on anti-China sentiment. [...]

She pointed in particular to the damage done to Beijing’s reputation over the Myitsone Dam project, which was shelved in 2011 amid a local outcry - prompting a concerted effort by China to cultivate the public as well as political leaders.

“Public opinion has been treated as a priority for China’s policy in Myanmar,” she said.

Efforts in recent years included everything from donating school backpacks to sponsoring inspection trips to China for officials - though a 2018 survey in Myanmar still found an “explicit bias” against Chinese investments. [...]