In 1962 the Burmese military staged a coup d’etat. Their iron-fisted rule lasted 49 years. For a period of time high level operations were run backed by Western agencies which saw Aung San Suu Kyi return from exile, take a place in the country and attempt to bring Burma back into democracy for the past decade.
Unhappy with democracy, the country’s military have stepped back in, arresting the national leaders and putting democracy at risk.
At Rangoon Suu Kyi enjoyed 70 per cent of the vote. But the army has come back, the internet and phone network shut down and now soldiers patrol the streets.
Burma’s top general, now leader, Min Aung Hlaing complained that there was election fraud to China.
China has stated that they have noted what has happened in Burma and are in the process of further understanding the situation. The Chinese have massive investments in Burma across the board which it would seek to protect.
Above all else, China would want stability on its southern border. China also seeks exploit Burma’s plentiful natural resources. Democratic leader, Suu Kyi, had already been brought into the Belt and Road Initiative. There’s every indication that the new leader, Min Aung Hlaing, will further his country’s relationship with China.
In 2020 China’s Xi Jinping visited Burma, signing dozens of infrastructure deals and promising to support the country’s development. Burma is considered to be firmly in Beijing’s orbit.
Whether General Hlaing had received tacit support or made a gamble in the dark, the military’s move seems, so far, to have paid off. Chinese state-media has already attempted to legitimise the move by referring to the coup as a “major cabinet reshuffle”. China has also stalled efforts at the United Nations Security Council to issue a statement condemning the coup.
In the West, Biden is taking a soft approach with China, and so is unlikely to interfere in China’s relationship with Burma. But there is a lesson to learn here: the Burmese military were able to take power in a cost free way, which means that China did not have to send one solider across the border to bring in a political change.
Biden and other Western figures may speak in positive terms about democracy in Eastern Asia, but the fact is they don’t have the will to stand up to China.