Myanmar junta reaffirms support for China’s Taiwan policy after elections

Analysts say the move is a bid to curry favor with Beijing as it seeks backing.
By RFA Burmese
2024.01.17
Myanmar junta reaffirms support for China’s Taiwan policy after elections Than Swe [left], Myanmar’s union minister for foreign affairs, meets Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Beijing, Dec. 6, 2023.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myanmar

Myanmar’s junta has reaffirmed its support for China’s claims over Taiwan following the democratic island’s general election over the weekend, in what observers say is a bid to curry favor with Beijing as it seeks international backing.

On Saturday, Lai Ching-te from Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party emerged as president-elect, beating Beijing-favored Hou Yu-ih of the Kuomintang and Ko Wen-je of the Taiwan People's Party.

Western countries, including the United States, were quick to deliver messages of congratulations for the Democratic Progressive Party’s election victory in Taiwan, prompting objections by China’s foreign ministry.

But on Monday, the junta’s ministry of foreign affairs issued a statement saying it will continue to back Beijing’s “one China principle,” which holds that the People’s Republic of China is the only legitimate government of China and that the island of Taiwan is an inalienable part of China.

The junta also expressed opposition to “separatist activities” aimed at securing Taiwan’s independence and foreign interference in the internal affairs of other states, as well as support for the island’s peaceful reunification.

The statement followed a similar one in a new year message from Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government, or NUG, on Jan. 1, which included a pledge of support for the policy, as well as a vow to maintain friendly relations between Myanmar and its northern neighbor and safeguard Chinese economic interests in the country. 

Panic over NUG statement

China-based political analyst Hla Kyaw Zaw said the junta was obligated to put out Monday’s statement once the Democratic Progressive Party was confirmed as the victor in Taiwan’s elections, as Beijing is one of the few governments to recognize its authority in Myanmar. The junta has faced widespread international condemnation following the military’s Feb. 1, 2021, coup d’etat.

“It had to say that [Myanmar] supports the one China principle and that Taiwan is a part of mainland China,” she said. It’s meant to curry favor with China.”

Sun Weidong [left], vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, meets Myanmar junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, Jan. 5, 2024. (Myanmar Military)
Sun Weidong [left], vice-minister of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, meets Myanmar junta leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, Jan. 5, 2024. (Myanmar Military)

But a former military officer in Myanmar, who spoke to RFA Burmese on condition of anonymity due to security concerns, said that the NUG’s statement of support earlier this month had thrown the junta into a panic.

“Actually, [the statement] wasn’t necessary because Myanmar already held this position from the beginning,” said the former officer, who now works as a political analyst. “I think [the junta] did so because they were concerned about the NUG’s statement. They want to reiterate that they already support [China] and have already designated it as a partner country.”

Calls by RFA to junta Deputy Information Minister Major General Zaw Min Tun for comment on the ministry of foreign affairs’ statement went unanswered Tuesday, as did emailed requests to the Chinese Embassy in Yangon.

Statement follows defeats

Than Soe Naing, a political commentator, pointed out that the junta’s statement comes amid a number of military defeats in northern Myanmar at the hands of resistance forces.

“It is seeking China’s help to get relief from these defeats,” he said.

Htet Myet, another political commentator, went further, noting that neither the junta nor the NUG would dare oppose Beijing’s policies.

“The [junta] is afraid that the Chinese government will be angry with them,” he said. “The NUG also did it, because it understands that it has to have good relations with China in order not to be blocked by its prospects and expectations … That’s why the NUG and the [junta] are on the same page.”

Last week, junta officials and an ethnic rebel resistance force known as the Three Brotherhood Alliance agreed to a temporary ceasefire during peace talks brokered by Beijing in China’s Yunnan province.

The allied Arakan Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and Ta’ang National Liberation Army agreed to cease capturing cities and military camps in northern Shan state, while junta officials agreed not to instigate aerial attacks and operate heavy weaponry.

However, observers have suggested that the decision is a result of Chinese pressure and would not be sustainable in the long run.

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.

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