Anti-Chinese Sentiment Rises in Myanmar as China Fears $1.5 Billion Myanmar-China Gas Pipeline Sabotage

Anti-Chinese sentiment was again shown by the anti-coup protesters of Myanmar’s military throughout November 2023. This happened after the documents of the meeting between the PLA Navy’s warships and the Myanmar military regime in December 2023 were leaked to the public.

In the document, it was stated that China asked the Myanmar military to provide better security, as well as intelligence (data) on ethnic minority armed groups in the oil and natural gas (Migas) pipeline belonging to China that crosses Myanmar.

“Safeguarding the security of bilateral cooperation projects is a shared responsibility of both China and Myanmar. This will also benefit the safe operation of the bilateral cooperation project”, China’s Foreign Ministry said in response to a question about the document.

Screenshot of the construction of an oil and gas pipeline network in Myanmar. (YouTube / VOA News))

The pipeline is a project symbolic of China’s cooperation with Myanmar which was opened in 2013. With a value of $1.5 billion, this project stretches for 770 kilometers to flow crude oil, especially from the Middle East.

The project is part of the Belt and Road campaign echoed by China. Billions of US dollars have been invested in Myanmar, including an economic route that ends at $ 1.3 billion deep seaports, an industrial zone, a new city next to the commercial hub of Yangon to a train to the border.

“Hostile public opinion will pose long-term threats and damage to China’s plans”, said Yun Sun, Director of the China program at the Washington-based Stimson Center.

As previously reported, documents of China’s secret meeting with the Myanmar military regime were leaked to the public. In the document, it was stated that the Director-General of the Department of External Security Affairs under the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bai Tian, asked the military regime to ensure the safety of China’s oil and gas pipelines in Myanmar, following the emergence of anti-Chinese sentiment, as reported by VOA.

A Suezmax tanker enters Made Island oil port in Myanmar, to offload crude for the pipeline. Photo: Xinhua

The 770-kilometer project consists of a twin pipeline network running parallel from the port of Kyaukphyu in Rakhine State on the Bay of Bengal, through the Magwe and Mandalay regions and northern Shan State before entering China.

The document also reveals that China hopes the military regime will put pressure on the Myanmar media, to reduce its doubts about China. Bai said the regime should curb the media from only positively writing about China.

Also, the Director-General said, ‘Criticism about the oil and gas pipeline should not be tolerated, because it is important for Myanmar’s socio-economic development. The relevant organization should control the projects’ fake news.

Amid intensifying conflicts in Myanmar, Beijing on Friday announced that the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines remain unaffected, while strongly urging an “immediate” ceasefire in the region.

“The relevant pipeline facilities of the China-Myanmar oil and gas pipeline have not been affected by the fighting between government forces and armed groups in Myanmar,” said Wang Wenbin, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.

China urges both parties to ceasefire

Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Friday that it’s following reports of military conflicts in Myanmar and called on relevant parties to ceasefire and stop fighting as soon as possible. 

“China called on the relevant parties to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue and consultation, avoid escalation of incidents and take concrete and effective measures to ensure security and stability of the China-Myanmar border,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a daily press briefing.

The remarks came after military positions of Myanmar’s army in the country, including the northern Shan State, were attacked on Friday by Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups, resulting in fierce fighting.

Emphasizing the importance of the cooperation between China and Myanmar, Wang said: “China pays close attention to the conflict in the border region, urges all relevant parties in Myanmar to immediately cease fire, earnestly pay attention to China’s security concerns.”

In response to the escalating violence, China prohibited its citizens from travelling to the conflict-stricken northern areas of Myanmar.

Recent days have seen heightened skirmishes in the northern Shan state near the China-Myanmar border.

The Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, and the Arakan Army have claimed control of numerous outposts and four towns, and blocked critical trade routes to China.

The United Nations expressed alarm at the severe fighting in Shan state, pointing to reports of artillery fire and air raids causing civilian harm, displacement of tens of thousands, and hundreds fleeing across the border.

Meanwhile, Japan-based Kyodo News reported Myanmar’s military junta has warned the Southeast Asian country could break apart if it cannot control attacks by ethnic militias.

The junta’s appointed Acting President Myint Swe, in a meeting of the national defense and security council on Wednesday, cautioned that Myanmar could “split into various parts” should the junta fail to curb attacks by ethnic militias.

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