How domestic instability shapes the power play over Myanmar

China’s oil and gas pipelines through Myanmar, and areas of ethnic conflict in the country
Ethnic conflicts complicate Myanmar’s relationship with the West, but China has significant political and economic leverage, not least through its oil and gas pipelines (source: dpa)
  • China, the West, and eastern Asian nations all have stakes in Myanmar
  • Ethnic conflict deters Western involvement, giving the Chinese an opening
  • Festering instability will benefit Beijing’s interests in the country

Myanmar is being pushed and pulled by competing forces: strong Chinese influence, a tentative relationship with the West and continued support from India, Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). How Myanmar manages its precarious domestic political situation is the key to determining how these forces will interact and affect its geopolitical position.

Myanmar’s relationship with China is foremost a product of geography. The border they share is 1,323 miles (2,129 km) long. The part of Myanmar that abuts China has been at the heart of a long history of conflict between the two countries. This has included Chinese invasion, 20th century battles between Chinese communists and remnants of Chinese nationalist forces, and Chinese support for communist insurgencies.

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