Chinese President Xi Jinping is all set to visit 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.
The Chinese president’s visit will seek to cement Beijing’s position as Myanmar’s largest investor and strategic partner.
Xi will begin the two-day trip on January 17, according to Luo Zhaohui, China’s vice-foreign minister. It will be the first state visit to Myanmar by a Chinese president since Jiang Zemin’s trip in 2001.
The much-trumpeted China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC) also 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.
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.
Like other Chinese-led projects, however, public details are scant.
Rakhine’s northern fringes saw 740,000 Rohingya forced out in a bloody military crackdown in 2017.
Beijing is one of the only major powers to have openly backed Myanmar over the Rohingya issue.
Last month, Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace laureate, appeared before the International Court of Justice at The Hague to defend Myanmar’s military against accusations of genocide and crimes against humanity including the killing of thousands of people, and the rape of women and children.