President of Myanmar (Burma) Thein Sein received a Chinese delegation led by Zhang Guoqing (President of China North Industries Corporation- NORINCO), at the Credentials Hall of the Presidential Palace in Nay-Pyi-Taw on Monday, The New Light of Myanmar said today.

Also present at the meeting were Union Defense Ministers Lt- Gen Ko Ko and U Hla Tun, Deputy Minister U Thant Kyaw and departmental heads. The Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Mr. Li Junhua appeared with the Chinese delegation.

During the meeting, both sides cordially discussed matters related to the promotion of relations between the two countries and bilateral cooperation, meeting success in long-term cooperation and making investments.

In addition, Mr. Zhang Guoqing also met with Deputy Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services Commander-in-Chief (Army) General Soe Win at Zeyathiri Hall in Nay-Pyi-Taw in the afternoon.

According to the newspaper, Chief of Staff (Air) Maj-Gen Khin Aung Myint, Deputy Minister for Defense Commodore Aung Thaw, Vice Adjutant-General Maj-Gen Tin Maung Win, Vice Quartermaster-General Brig-Gen Tin Tun Aye and senior military officers from the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army) attended the event. Participants from the Chinese side in the meeting were Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar Mr Li Junhua, Military Attaché Senior-Col Xiong Shaowei and personnel of NORINCO. Both sides openly discussed possibilities for cooperation in doing business, the paper said.

Although no one knows the discussion topic during the meetings with the Chinese delegation, people presume the real particulars would likely be about the Chinese investment issues including the copper mine crisis. As the Chinese delegation is interrelated with NORINCO, the major talk seems to be the safety measures of Chinese investments in the country.

President Thein Sein received a Chinese delegation led by Zhang Guoqing (President of China North Industries Corporation- NORINCO) at the Presidential Palace in Nay-Pyi-Taw on 24 Dec. 2012. (Photo: http://www.president-office.gov.mm/)

It is clear that China maintains the relationship with Burma/Myanmar in order to exploit economic and strategic advantages. Burma has been a marketplace for poor quality Chinese goods for decades. On the other hand, China solely buys various goods from Burma/Myanmar to supply its swelling population. China swallows every Burmese product such as agricultural commodities, domestic animals, fishery products, forestry products, mineral deposits and natural gas and so on.

Additionally, China also monopolizes the construction sector in Burma, including numerous hydropower projects and a deep-water sea port project in Kyauk-phru in Rakhine State. The most important Chinese projects is a gas and oil pipeline across Burma from Kyaukphru to Ruili, on the China border. The 771-kilometer-long pipeline will provide a shortcut to carry crude oil from Africa and the Middle East into China instead of the sea route via Malacca Strait. The natural gas will come from fields off Burma’s west coast.

However, Burma’s so-called civilian government has suspended a controversial $3.6 billion Myitsone dam hydroelectric power project in September 2011 since the Chinese-financed project has faced objections from various social strata nationwide, according to the media reports.

Postponement appears to have created more awareness of the development project in view of the fact that such a venture is an exploitation of China. Environmental analysts say the Myitsone hydropower plant, which will involve a reservoir the size of Singapore, will seriously damage the environment. It is being built and invested by Chinese companies and over 90 percent of its electricity will be sent to China while Burma has been undergoing constant power shortages. The China Power Investment Corporation (CPI) made the dam contract with the previous junta’s Electric Power Ministry in May 2007, without respecting the voice of the people who live in the region.

More recently, a series of protests led by Buddhist monks against the spreading out of a Chinese-run copper-mine at Letpadaung in Monywa District of Upper Burma has made environmental consciousness throughout the country. The Letpadaung copper-mine project has been digging out mineral and spoiling mountains in the area. Health problems have also surfaced because of a sulfuric acid plant near local public neighborhoods.  Moreover, neighborhood villagers have undergone the dumping of contaminated dirty soil from copper manufacturing. Local inhabitants have expressed fears earlier concerning the environmental and health impact of the copper mine project.

Afterward, the 771-kilometer-long Chinese pipeline project has been criticized by local inhabitants with reference to unfair land grabbing, controversial compensation and environmental disaster. Chinese companies should abide by the international norms doing development projects with respect to the voice of the people who live in the province.

According to analysts, criticism of the development projects has been swelling in Burma as pro-democracy and environmental activists have started using their citizens’ rights under the new government, which is calling itself a reformist and working to become a democratic administration.