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President's visit to Myanmar poses challenge for China

Burmese people walk by a shop selling American flags as the city gets ready for the first visit by a serving U.S. President, on November 17, 2012 in Yangon, Myanmar.

For the past decade, China’s investment in Myanmar, a country on its southern border, grew and grew. A year ago came the first sign of trouble. That’s when Myanmar’s government unexpectedly halted a Chinese-funded hydroelectric dam inside Myanmar that would’ve flooded an area the size of Singapore.

“It seemed the resources -- in this case the energy -- was all going to China," says Edward Friedman, Chinese foreign policy expert at the University of Wisconsin,  "and the Burmese were essentially becoming servants in which their resources were serving Chinese purposes and they were beginning to worry whether they were serving Burmese purposes.”

Opening up U.S. trade with Myanmar may offer opportunities for U.S. businesses, but Friedman says, it won’t likely have a major economic impact on China. Instead, says Friedman, President Obama’s visit there, shows the country is eager to diversify its portfolio.

Myanmar is already receiving a steady stream of investment from the world’s number two economy. It’d like to do the same with number one.

 

 

Rob Schmitz: For the past decade, China’s investment in Myanmar, a country on its southern border, grew and grew. A year ago came the first sign of trouble. That’s when Myanmar’s government unexpectedly halted a Chinese-funded hydroelectric dam inside Myanmar that would’ve flooded an area the size of Singapore. Edward Friedman is a Chinese foreign policy expert at the University of Wisconsin.

Edward Friedman: “It seemed the resources -- in this case the energy -- was all going to China. And the Burmese were essentially becoming servants in which their resources were serving Chinese purposes and they were beginning to worry whether they were serving Burmese purposes.”

Opening up U.S. trade with Myanmar may offer opportunities for U.S. businesses, but Friedman says, it won’t likely have a major economic impact on China. Instead, says Friedman, President Obama’s visit there, shows the country is eager to diversify its portfolio. Myanmar is already receiving a steady stream of investment from the world’s number two economy…it’d like to do the same with number one.

 

About the author

Rob Schmitz is Marketplace’s China correspondent in Shanghai.

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