Burma, China and the U.S.A


Burma, China and the U.S.A. by Wayne Bert, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), pp. 263-282


China is establishing an economic and military position in Burma that strengthens it vis-a-vis both India and Southeast Asia and improves its access to the Indian Ocean. The transportation network China is helping establish in Burma has economic value for both countries, but may also serve strategic purposes. Such developments and Burma’s dependence on China are contrary to US interests, but US policy toward Burma has focused on moral symbolism and neglected development of a policy that would encourage real change. US policy is equally ineffective in countering Chinese influence, encouraging democratization and stopping human rights abuses. India and Thailand especially are concerned about China’s growing influence. India has been moving with increasing urgency to reengage with Burma and counter Chinese influence. The US should also take steps to reengage the Burmese government, gain leverage in the economy and try to coordinate a common policy toward Burma with Europe, Japan, India and ASEAN. The focus should be on realistic incremental change rather than the system transformation many in the West seem to hope for. Changes in US policy would increase US effectiveness in moving Burma toward a more democratic polity that would promulgate a foreign policy more typical of Southeast Asian countries and more compatible with US interests.

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