08/20/2016, 11.30
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Dams and diplomatic relations: Aung San Suu Kyi in China

The Burmese State Minister is in Beijing from August 17. Yesterday she met with President Xi Jinping. China ready to play "a constructive role in promoting the peace process in Myanmar". Talks also on Myitsone dam project and $ 3.6 billion suspended in 2011 after strong protests.

Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Trade agreements on hydropower, exploitation of natural resources and finance and the strengthening of diplomatic relations with the biggest investor in Myanmar. These are the cornerstones of Aung San Suu Kyi's official visit, in her capacity as Burmese Minister of Foreign Affairs, to China on August 17. After being welcomed like a head of government, the Nobel Laureate met Prime Minister Li Keqiang two days ago, while yesterday she held talks with President Xi Jinping.

The trip, which ends tomorrow, is the most important visit to a foreign country made by the leader of the League for Democracy after the party's election victory. Xi Jinping expressed satisfaction with the choice of Aung San Suu Kyi, stating that "China attaches great importance to development of relations with Myanmar". The Chinese president said that Beijing wants to play "a constructive role in promoting the peace process in Myanmar and efforts to ensure stability on the Sino-Burmese border". Many analysts consider this visit a sign that, despite the democratic process in action in the country, Myanmar is forced to remain in the orbit of China rather than the US.

With $ 15.4 billion in loan approvals in Myanmar, China is by far the largest foreign investor in the country, although the democratic elections have increased Western interests. Beijing is especially interested in oil and gas reserves, dams and mines that are on Burmese territory. In recent months a number of Chinese companies have won lucrative contracts.

A major topic of discussion between the two countries concerns the $ 3.6 billion Myitsone dam project (the northern state of Kachin), uspended in 2011 by the former president of Burma Thein Sein to the great wrath of Beijing . The junta's decision had come after several protests denouncing hardships for the population living near the dam. Even Aung San Suu Kyi had advocated in favor of the closure of the project.

The reopening of the dam is a priority for Beijing, as it would benefit from 90% of the energy generated by the facility. Several Burmese civil society organizations are concerned that the current visit will lead to a revival of the project. Some 60 groups have written an open letter to President Xi Jinping and delivered it to the Chinese ambassador, in which they call for the permanent closure of project.

Song Junying, an analyst at the China Institute for International Studies, believes that "among all the possibilities, the reopening of the dam is the least likely. The project was stopped a long time ago and is considered a democratic victory of the Burmese people. It is likely that Yangon will choose to liquidate the Chinese side and open other sites for the Beijing dams".

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