Burma: why is China refusing to sanction the junta?

It is the thorn in the side of China. Since its unexpected rallying to the United Nations (UN) Security Council in mid-March to condemn the repression of demonstrators by the Burmese military, Beijing has wavered. To the concern of the UN envoy for Burma who judged, Wednesday March 31, that a “Bloodbath is imminent” (536 people have already lost their lives to military bullets), China responded by refusing to sanction the Burmese junta.

→ READ. Burma: Aung San Suu Kyi heavily accused by the authorities

Thursday 1er April, again, the United Nations Security Council has strongly condemned the deaths of hundreds of civilians, including women and children ”, without however considering sanctions as provided for in the initial text. The result of two days of heated negotiations with Beijing, assure diplomats.

“Violence and bloodshed do not serve the interests of anyone”, admittedly acknowledged the Chinese Ambassador to the UN Zhang Jun. But, according to him, sanctions “Would only make the situation worse”. Once again, he advocates the “Dialogue”, the “Consultation” and of “To return to a democratic transition in this country”. But two months after the coup, the junta remains deaf to the demands of the Burmese people and to the calls of the international community for de-escalation.

Conflicts of economic interest

In the West, the United Kingdom, the United States like many economic players did not wait to impose financial sanctions on the military, their relatives and their economic interests. But it is clear that their effect remains limited. Because if the junta controls most of the Burmese economy, its companies work above all with China and the countries of Southeast Asia.

→ ANALYSIS. Burma: UN issues severe warning to military

However, for China, imposing sanctions would amount to “Put a stop to public investments which are in its own interest”, remarks David Camroux, researcher at the International Research Center (Ceri) of Sciences-Po Paris, specialist in Asia-Pacific. “She is trapped because she needs Burma more than the opposite. “

“If she agreed to join the joint declaration of the UN Security Council against the junta, it is as much because it is concerned by its borders as for its very important economic interests in Burma”, recalls Marc Julienne, associate researcher at the Foundation for Strategic Research (FRS), specialist in Chinese foreign policy. Beijing fears for its gas pipeline and its oil pipeline which connect the province of Yunnan to the state of Rakhine, in the Bay of Bengal.

→ READ. In Burma, the UN divided in the face of violence

The attacks on Chinese factories by protesters showed the fragility of its infrastructure in the country.

Principle of non-interference

The Burmese chaos does not help Chinese affairs. But Beijing refrains from any intervention, held by the “Five principles of peaceful coexistence” established in 1954 between China, India and Myanmar, before expanding to other Asian countries. They guarantee mutual respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of States, mutual non-aggression, mutual non-interference in internal affairs, mutual equality and advantages as well as peaceful coexistence.

→ SATURDAY. Burma: fierce repression at its height

For lack of better, “China subcontracts the Burmese question to the countries of Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations)”, notes David Camroux. Without dwelling on the details, the Chinese ambassador to the UN said that discussions were underway between the countries of ASEAN “For a special summit”. But David Camroux warns: “They are unable to find a common position on Burma. “


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