A Chinese embassy magazine aimed at promoting China’s ties with host country Myanmar had the opposite effect, sparking anger with a cover photo that imposed Chinese architectural features on the Mandalay Palace of the country’s last monarchy.
The June issue of China Today magazine, a bimonthly journal published in Burmese, showed the 160-year-old Mandalay Palace, with a reflection in its famed moat of a Chinese-style palace and bastion.
A photo of the magazine cover went viral on social media, sparking criticism of the portrayal of the icon of Mandalay, home of the last dynasty that ruled then Burma from 1752 to 1885, and prompting the Mandalay region’s chief minister, Zaw Myint Maung, to raise the issue in a letter to the minister of culture and religious affairs.
“People interpret the magazine cover differently,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Those who created the cover are from Yangon. They intend to portray that China also has iconic structures, similar to the royal palace in Mandalay. This is their explanation. I have presented what I perceived,” he said.
Theik Tun Thet, a Mandalay based author, said Mandalay residents' unhappiness about the magazine cover reflects deeper worries about China’s growing presence in their city and country.
“Residents of Mandalay have been unhappy about the growth of the guest citizen population in the city because they have got better opportunities and privileges than the native residents,” he told RFA, referring to the Chinese.
“Mandalay native residents feel that the guests are occupying more space than a guest is supposed to. In this atmosphere, this magazine cover angers the people more. It is inappropriate, since the moat and bastion are icons of this nation.”
Mandalay native author Hsu Nghat said the Chinese embassy should offer a proper explanation to the public about the magazine cover.
“We are neighboring countries and we will live like that forever,” he said.
“It is a time that we should promote economic cooperation. In a time like this, they should be more careful in handling delicate issues like that,” said Hsu Nghat.
“They should have consulted with experts from Myanmar. They need to give explanation for the publication,” he added.
Aung San Win, a director at the Myanmar Ministry of Culture and Religious Affairs, told RFA that he hasn’t received the letter from Mandalay yet.
RFA tried to contact the Chinese embassy and the China-Myanmar Friendship Association by telephone but received no reply.
Reported by Khaymani Win for RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Paul Eckert.