Chinese President Xi Jingping arrived in Myanmar Friday for a two-day state visit aimed at cementing 70 years of Myanmar-China relations and bolstering Aung San Suu Kyi’s embattled government.

Writing in Myanmar’s state-run New Light the day before his arrival, the Chinese leader called for progress on major Chinese infrastructure projects, including a controversial $1.3-billion (€1.16 billion) sea port and economic zone in Myanmar’s conflict-ridden Rakhine state.

The so-called China-Myanmar Economic Corridor will link China to the Indian Ocean from Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state. A high-speed rail link is also on the cards.

“This historic visit will definitely produce historic results,” China’s deputy foreign minister, Luo Zhaohui, said at a press briefing last week. 

Xi will meet with Myanmar’s President Win Myint and de facto leader Suu Kyi for a welcome ceremony in the capital Naypyitaw followed by a meeting with military giant Min Aung Hlaing on Saturday.

Mynmar | Xi Jinping auf Staatsbesuch (Reuters/A. Wang)

The capital of Naypyitaw prepares for Xi’s arrival. Xi is expected to meet with Myanmar’s President Win Myint, de facto leader Suu Kyi and military chief Min Aung Hlaing

Read moreChina Belt and Road Initiative a hard nut to crack for European firms

Xi infuriates activists

Activists are expected to protest in the commercial city of Yangon on Saturday against the Chinese project.

Rakhine is the poorest state in the country and has witnessed large-scale destruction and killings. Over 700,000 people, mostly Rohingya, have crossed into neighboring Bangladesh to flee the violence, while tens of thousands have been displaced in the state.

China safeguards Myanmar at the United Nations, where international pressure is intensifying for accountability over the Rohingya crisis.

Xi’s visit is “sending ripples of fear” among human rights activists who say Chinese projects will trigger land grabbing and cause environmental harm, analyst David Mathieson told German news agency dpa.  

However, for some, China is an economic lifeline for Myanmar.

Bilateral trade was worth $16.8 billion in 2019 and Beijing holds the largest share at around 40% of Myanmar’s foreign debt.

“The next one, two, three decades will be defined by Myanmar’s relationship with China,” said Yangon-based analyst Richard Horsey.

mvb/rt (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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