US relations with Myanmar have been souring for quite some time already, as Bloomberg noted three years ago. A budding relationship that early on had been seen as a foreign policy success of the Obama administration, and a tiny sliver of the US’ elusive “pivot to Asia,” has lost its luster. But as has been the case with other neglected countries, China is happy to step in and fill the gap.
Matthew Pennington wrote for the Associated Press this weekend on Myanmar’s pivot to China:
“Finding less love among the Western democracies, Suu Kyi is cautiously embracing closer ties to China.
“‘Amid the unpredictable challenges of this democratic transition, Western influence on Burma is waning, while Beijing is becoming more assertive,’ Myanmar’s Irrawaddy news website said in an editorial.
“Recent weeks have seen a flurry of China-Myanmar engagement. Suu Kyi met Chinese leader Xi Jinping at a Beijing summit in mid-May, her second visit there in the past year. Earlier, Myanmar’s titular president, Htin Kyaw, received a six-day state visit. Suu Kyi’s trip ended with an agreement with China to create an economic cooperation zone as part of the Asian giant’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to connect with Asian and European markets…
“Derek Mitchell, the former U.S. ambassador who spearheaded Obama’s Myanmar rapprochement, said China was ‘stunned’ when the country reached out to the West between 2011 and 2015. China is now making up for lost time, and capitalizing on President Donald Trump’s reduced attention for Myanmar, he said…
“Mitchell, the former Obama envoy, warned of a larger strategic setback for the U.S.
“Failing to consolidate Myanmar’s transition would tell the region’s autocratic governments they were right, he said, that ‘democracy doesn’t work in Asia.’”