China-Myanmar Scholars Dialogue for Promoting Peace and Stability for Myanmar

Presentation for Discussion
Priorities for Peace
China-Myanmar Scholars Dialogue for Promoting Peace and Stability for Myanmar
(6 April 2017)


First of all, allow me to introduce myself as a Huaqiao, or officially a Haiwai Huaren otherwise a person of Chinese descent who lives outside China. I was born in this country. Accordingly, the first message I would like to convey is that I hold myself at least partly responsible for whatever happens in this country, either good or bad, especially bad.

In the past, I was known for my annual reports on the drug situation in Shan State, where I hail from. But since 2011, I have been assisting the work of peacemakers on both sides of the fence.

I’m sure you’ve already heard most of the things I’m going to present here. But since human concentration span in this digital age is woefully short, I hope you will bear with me for a few minutes.

Peace is relative

When we talk about Myanmar’s peace process, we will need to look at two different playing fields: inside and outside. What’s common between them is both need win-win solutions and both are interdependent. Success in one category will complement the other. Naturally, failure in one will hurt the other too.

Peace with neighbors a crying requisite

But here we will be discussing less about the inside playing field, but more about the outside one.

Outside, I fully agree with Myanmar’s Non-Alignment Policy, which is enshrined in its 2008 constitution as well as its 2015 defense white paper.

What we really need however is to expand our friendship not just to one superpower, either regional or global, but to all of them.

I’m not against the rise of China, Japan, Russia and India as superpowers. But we need a right balance among them to make and preserve peace, like the planets going around this earth. In the same breath, I’m wary of the decline of each existing power, which might spell danger to our own existence.

We need to be friends with all, not just one. And we need all of you to be friends, not enemies. Because it will be good for you as well as us.

A win-win solution: not only a must for the internal peace process

Now I’m going to discuss what we have really come here to talk about: Sino-Myanmar relations

Without achieving a win-win solution between the two countries, it is clear this country will face immense difficulties to achieve a sustainable internal peace. And vice versa.

Like the internal peace process, I think we need an agreed set of trust building roadmap between the two countries. Here it must be acknowledged that China has made a lot of “commendable” efforts in this respect:

§  Financial assistance for JMC
§  The two plus two arrangement¹
§  Suspension of MNDAA bank account²
§  Public notice urging refugees to surrender their firearms³
§  Issuing invitations to ethnic political parties to visit China. Here what we may need is anther invitation for EAOs, especially the NCA signatories, to visit it. Right now, it seems to outsiders they are being excluded.

I welcome these efforts. I appreciate them. And personally, I also agree with 2 points stated in China’s White Paper which came out in January:

§  One, “Small and medium-sized countries need not and should not take sides among big countries”

§  Two, “We cannot just have the security of one or some countries while leaving the rest insecure, still less should we seek ‘absolute security’ of oneself at the expense of the security of others”

But they are not enough. The least China could do is to present us with a draft plan of what you want to do and what you want us to do⁴. Then together we will be able to work out an agenda that both can agree.

More need to be done to improve relations

A lot more is necessary, not only about engagement with our country’s peace process, but also in other areas which should be aimed at winning the hearts of is country’s public in favor of  China, that will in turn influence the outcome of the peace process.

To win over them, we will need to remove their bitter sense of being bullied by China throughout the past decades:

§   Depletion of forests, minerals, and jade, forced on them by Chinese companies

§   Cheap Chinese goods that have resulted in the locals losing their jobs and livelihoods

§   Development projects that have forced the people out of their homes and fields
(I’m sure China has its own complaints about this country and its people, and this is one platform where they should be aired)

The word ‘Hate’ is an ugly one. But that is how they feel about China. And as a one-quarter Chinese, I don’t feel good about that. These problems should be addressed, apart from those concerning the ongoing internal peace process.

To resolve them, G to G relations alone will not help, if the public is against people coming across the border.

I’m aware that President Xi is aware of the feelings of people in countries, not only Myanmar, where China is working. We keep hearing Chinese leaders assuring us that the rise of China will be peaceful, that China will never seek hegemony. But words are not enough. Deeds are.

I’m winding up my presentation with two translated excerpts from Lao Zi’s Dao De Jing:

§  How does the sea become the king of all streams? Because it lies lower than they!
§  Hence, if a great country can lower itself before a small country, it will win over the small country; and if a small country can lower itself before a great country, it will win over the great country. The one wins by stooping; the other, by remaining low.

Please forgive me if it sounds like a sermon. But it is not. On the contrary, it is just a friendly and filial suggestion. Thank you.⁵

1.     The two plus two arrangement (meeting of foreign and defense officials on both sides) has reportedly worked well between Myanmar and Thailand. However, as for the arrangement between China and Myanmar, it was observed by both Chinese and Myanmar scholars as “too formal”
2.     Suspension of MNDAA bank account has been criticized by some as just token, as it was holding just a little over US$ 500,000.
3.     Some have noted that the rewards for the surrender of firearms are not “enticing enough”
4.     The result was that both sides agreed to form a joint border fact-finding team
5.     One thing I forgot to say, but hoped everyone understood, was that I was not speaking for anybody but myself.

(To be continued)


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