Monday, 25 January 2016

As Myanmar Enters a New Era, Washington and Beijing Vie for Influence

Myanmar is a country rapidly moving toward uncharted political terrain. By March 2016, the National League for Democracy (NLD) will take power for the first time in history, bringing an end to five decades of rule by the military establishment. Once suppressed by the military junta, the NLD – led by longtime dissident and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi – has secured an indisputable victory during the country’s November 2015 elections, winning a majority in both houses of Parliament.

The ascent of the NLD comes at a time when Myanmar finds itself at a new strategic crossroads, pulled toward the geopolitical orbit of major powers: the United States and China, as well as India. Since the outgoing military-backed government opened the country to Western investment in 2011, the US has prioritised its relationship with Myanmar as part of its strategy to reassert influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The country has received numerous visits by US high-ranking leaders, including President Obama on two occasions.

China, the country’s neighbour and largest trading partner, has long suspected Washington of seeking to influence Myanmar’s opening to nurture a regime with an antagonistic position toward Beijing. While the NLD positions itself to form a new government, the rise of this political force with a thoroughly pro-Western orientation, which has long anchored itself as a pro-democracy movement lauded throughout the West, begs the question of Myanmar’s place in the current geopolitical scenario.

Read the full story on New Eastern Outlook

Nile Bowie is a Singapore-based political commentator and columnist for the Malaysian Reserve newspaper. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.