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A vote for Suu Kyi is a vote for China in Myanmar

YANGON – When Myanmar heads to the polls on November 8, voters will be indirectly choosing between more or less engagement with China.

A vote for de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) promises a continuation of policies that have paved the way for China’s recent unprecedented expansion inside the country.

A vote for many ethnic-based parties, on the other hand, will be de facto support for resistance to China-backed infrastructure and other projects that have either been initiated or supported by Suu Kyi’s central government but strongly resisted at a grassroots level.   

That electoral narrative flips the script on previous power relations, where for years Beijing propped military-aligned regimes ostracized and sanctioned by the West for their rights abuses and then-political prisoner Suu Kyi who was known to view dimly China’s supporting role.