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1 December, 2017 00:00 00 AM
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Economic corridor could stabilize region

BY SONG QINGRUN

At his meeting with Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi on November 19, visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a China-Myanmar economic corridor, which will start from Southwest China’s Yunnan province and extend to the central Myanmar city of Mandalay, and then east to Yangon and west to the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone. The plan, Wang said, will be made in accordance with Myanmar’s national development plan and actual needs to strengthen the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries.

The proposed China-Myanmar economic corridor, which can build synergy with the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor, has the potential to expedite trade between China and the regions beyond Myanmar, including Bangladesh and India, even the Middle East via the sea route, while enhancing China’s land connectivity with the Bay of Bengal. Its effects could further boost global confidence in the Belt and Road projects and give rise to closer transnational cooperation under the framework.

Myanmar, too, is expected to greatly benefit from China’s proposal in terms of infrastructure and poverty alleviation. Myanmar’s “underdeveloped” infrastructure—which among other things is responsible for power shortage, ill-maintained roads and sky-high logistics costs—has kept many investors away. That could change if the bilateral economic corridor that prioritizes connectivity is implemented.

Paying equal attention to Myanmar’s Yangon-Mandalay economic belt and its “underdeveloped” western states like Rakhine, the China-Myanmar economic corridor will seek to strike a balance between revamping economic engines and targeted poverty alleviation programs.

The latter, in particular, will help ease the conflicts between local Buddhists and Muslims in the Rakhine state, which has forced hundreds of thousands of Rakhine residents to flee the country. The consequences could have been less serious had Myanmar effectively reduced poverty and distributed social resources in a fairer manner. The China-Myanmar economic corridor could also help secure regional stability, which is key to nipping terrorism and extremism in bud.

China and Myanmar also have a lot to gain from cooperation on the economic corridor projects. On the one hand, an increasing number of Chinese enterprises have felt the urge to invest in overseas markets and strengthen production capacity cooperation with the countries in need, and developing economies such as Myanmar are an ideal destination. On the other hand, Myanmar needs Chinese investment to bolster its lackluster industrial sector, especially because many Western investors are reluctant to venture into the Myanmar market.

 An important fact to note is that the economic corridor is not exclusive, and welcomes other countries to join it. The opportunities should not be missed by other countries, because with more participants on board, the project could expand and become more mutually beneficial. (The author is an associate professor of Southeast Asia and South Asia studies at China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations. This article was originally published by China Daily and is abridged here for use)

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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