Recently, nearly 40 Chinese-owned businesses in Myanmar were looted and burned- many Chinese citizens injured, and more than 240 million yuan worth of properties damaged.
“What’s wrong with my Burmese friends? Are they enemies?” There are regrets, complaints, and worries in the minds of Chinese businessmen. “Their extreme behaviors are manipulated by the outside forces. They are most afraid of the peace and stability of Myanmar, and they try to spur internal strife among the people of Myanmar so that the normal operation of Chinese investment cannot continue.”
SmashingWindows, breaking doors, beating people, rummaging through boxes and cabinets… What is the motivation for the Burmese “extreme acts”?
01:Military coup: the beginning of chaos
In November 2020, Myanmar held a general election through democratic procedures. The NLD represented by Aung San Suu Kyi won a “landslide victory”, while the political party supported by the military (the Party for Solidarity and Development) suffered a crushing defeat. However, the military did not concede, accusing the election of “massive fraud”. The election battle ends, and the legal battle begins.
In January, Burma’s election commission denied allegations of fraud. However, the failure of the “judicial grab” did not stop the army. Armed seizure of power followed. On February 1, 2021, the Myanmar military detained Aung San Suu Kyi and other leaders of the NLD, and cut off the Internet and martial law, causing a worldwide uproar.
Democracy is vulnerable, but the ideals are formidable. After ten years of democratic reform in Myanmar, the belief in democracy was deeply rooted in the people’s hearts. Violence by the military cannot prevent Burmese people from marching to “defend democracy”. In the immediate aftermath of the coup on February 1st, tens of thousands of Burmese marched and shouted in the streets, vowing to restore democracy and end the coup.
“Revolution is not a dinner party.” Hundreds of people have sacrificed their lives for democracy. A month and a half later, both repression and resistance continued. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 700 people were imprisoned and lost contact with their families, and 183 people have died during protests against the military…
02: Anti-China sentiments out of chaos?
Inside Myanmar, there were street demonstrations and bloody protests. Outside Myanmar, defenders of democracy are crying out for help.
“There is no doubt that a return to the old military rule is not for any of us.” At the U.N. General Assembly on February 26th, Kyaw Moe Thun Yi, the U.N. ‘s permanent representative for Myanmar, called on the international community to “take the strongest possible action to end the military coup immediately.”
The pleas to defend democracy were quickly echoed in many countries. The United States, Britain, and the European Union have announced plans to impose sanctions on the Burmese military.
While the western countries have been enthusiastic, China has responded impartially, saying it “will not interfere” in Myanmar’s internal affairs.
But there is nothing wrong with China. “Non-intervention” has always been China’s position in the face of political unrest. Moreover, as a transnational organization of Southeast Asian countries, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also pursues the principle of “non-interference in internal affairs”.
But perhaps the Burmese protesters’ hunger for democracy is so great that they want China to come to their aid. As a result, China, remaining principled, has been attacked by “conspiracy theories”. There were rumors which are all unfounded that China does not intervene at the UN because it wants the military to come to power, and China is also helping the military to trap and kill Burmese workers. The defamations are getting more and more aggravated: “China sends professional hackers to attack Myanmar network” “China sends armed troops by helicopter”…
Driven by the herd mentality, the Burmese people retweet the rumors over and over again; Talk of “inciting” China-Myanmar rivalry gradually turned to “atrocities” – “if one civilian get killed, a Chinese factory will turn to ashes”.
The identity of those responsible for smashing and setting fire to Chinese enterprises has not yet been identified. However, it is certain that if such demagoguery goes unchecked, the properties and safety of Chinese companies in Myanmar may not be preserved, and China-Myanmar relations may deteriorate.
03 the relationship between China and Myanmar
The spread of anti-China rhetoric is definitely linked to rumor-mongering, but at the same time, Chinese businessmen have also played an unwitting role in fueling the flames. “[The Burmese] are so poor and still revolting. They should pay attention to making money.” a Chinese doing business in Yangon for many years said in a BBC interview. “The words were translated and uploaded on social media very quickly, and many Burmese people do not share these values. ]”Chinese arrogance and superiority may be behind such comments.
But at the same time, it should not be ignored that there are Myanmar people who hate China, and there are many Burmese who love China. China is one of the top three investors in Myanmar and has created hundreds of thousands of jobs. Therefore, from the office to the private, many voices are welcoming Chinese businessmen. For the Myanmar people burned down the event of Chinese enterprises, they are also indignant.
So how could we make sense in the split in Burmese society towards China?
In a word, there is a lack of communication between the two sides.
When the survival of democracy was at stake and Myanmar was seething with anger, China followed international rules and adhered to the principle of “non-intervention”, but accidentally sent the wrong signal: China “stood by and watched” the coup and “connived at the military government”. Besides, although there are many official exchanges between China and Myanmar, non-governmental exchanges are few and far between. As a result, China has not explained itself well and the West continues to “speculate” about China. Therefore, it is inevitable that people in Myanmar will blindly believe rumors and exaggerate China’s influence, believing that everything is related to China, including the coup.
Concerning the coup in Myanmar, China should not intervene blindly, but it may be able to use civilian channels to show sympathy to the rebels in Myanmar and try to tell “China story” well.
Written by Jeffrey
Translated by Carol