Busy, busy, busy…
Myanmar held parliamentary elections for a limited number of seats early this month, and the opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), achieved a landslide victory under the leadership of Aung San Suu Kyi, who herself won a seat in parliament. Has Myanmar’s political landscape been fundamentally changed or is this just another show of democracy? Phoenix TV (PTV) talked to Du Ping (Du), a commentator on global politics, on these issues.
PTV: What do you make out this victory of the NLD? What are its implications for Myanmar’s political prospect?
Du: A very unusual sign of progress. Of course this is not the first democratic election in Myanmar.
Back in 1990, the NLD already won 59 percent of the national votes and 81 percent of the seats in the parliament. Back then Suu Kyi’s victory was denied by the military junta, and she herself had already been placed under house arrest before the 1990 election.
Twenty years later, the government of Myanmar finally took a small step forward.
However small this step is, it is a hard-earned progress to allow the opposition party to compete for power in a country that is widely viewed from the outside as an autocracy.
But what it means for Myanmar’s political prospect or its process of democratization depends on a lot of factors.
Anyway this election is still praiseworthy. The military-backed Myanmese ruler, Thein Sein, seems to be willing to answer both domestic and outside calls for reform.
Under pressure from the international community, he has made the right decision to push forward political reform.
Why he made such a decision or what his true motives are is another question.
PTV: You have said democratic reform like this is hard-earned progress that deserves praise for Myanmar. But what does this reform mean for the international community? Since Myanmar is a member state of ASEAN, what influence will the reform have on its relationships with the other nine members of ASEAN? Will it impact Myanmar’s relationship with China?
Du: First of all, since Thein Sein assumed office, he has been making efforts to convince the Western countries to lift sanctions on Myanmar after years of diplomatic isolation and economic and military sanctions.
Although the reformists are not in the majority of the ruling party and there could be some irregularities regarding the fairness of the election, I believe Thein Sein will keep his promises to reform.
Considering the regional politics, the reform is conducive for Myanmar to play a more active role in regional cooperation as a member state of ASEAN.
Despite opposition from the US and the EU, ASEAN resisted the pressure and admitted Myanmar as a member on the ground of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
But ASEAN has been under heavy criticism for that and has actually exerted a certain influence on Myanmar’s domestic politics.
This election could make other ASEAN member states recognize that Myanmar is gradually changing, which can definitely take off some of the pressure imposed on ASEAN. As for Myanmar’s membership in ASEAN, the ASEAN countries are willing to let Myanmar serve as the chair of ASEAN and host the Southeast Asian Games.
China, as Myanmar’s biggest neighbor, has maintained a good relationship with the country for quite a long time.
Though Myanmar seems to be on a development path toward Western style democracy, China at first wasn’t so sure about its future. Because it is not clear what political paths Suu Kyi and her NLD will take.
PTV: So China had its worries about Myanmar’s future?
Du: In my opinion, China should embrace Myanmar’s positive progress in democratic reform.
In other words, if through the democratization process, a national reconciliation between parties and factions could take place, it won’t be a problem for China to cooperate with Myanmar in all aspects.
Because China already cooperates with almost all democratic countries very smoothly, there’s no way Myanmar will be an exception to that. However, Suu Kyi has yet to run the country herself. It will take a really long time. I think China should take a positive view of Myanmar’s democratization process.
PTV: Suu Kyi and her NLP have achieved a landslide victory in the by-elections and will become a very strong opposition party in the parliament. Since she has been under home arrest for 15 years and she has a long history of providing a dissenting voice, will she serve as a powerful watchdog over the Myanmar government?
Du: Even if Suu Kyi’s party had won all the seats up for grab, these would still be less than 10 percent of the total 600 seats available in the parliament. That doesn’t leave her in all that strong a position. As for whether she could serve as an effective watchdog over the government, I don’t think we should be too optimistic about it.
Why? Suu Kyi has been opposing the military junta for the past two decades. The more uncooperative you are, the less influence you can wield on the existing regime.
Once you get into the regime, aside from being a watchdog, moderate cooperation is also necessary to showcase your influence. Or you will have a very limited political influence as a result.
Hence, her party is now in a difficult position. On the one hand, they need to cooperate with the current regime; on the other hand, they need to function as the opposition party. So she should take a delicate and nuanced stand in order to exercise more influence.
Uncles Sam by the Side, Pinoy Maid Acts the Thug
According to a statement sent to the Global Times yesterday by the Chinese embassy in Manila, the embassy on Tuesday received a report that 12 Chinese fishing boats were in the lagoon of Huangyan Island in the South China Sea to shelter from harsh weather conditions when a Philippine Naval warship blocked the entrance to the lagoon.
The warship is the biggest in the Philippine navy, which was recently acquired from the US, according to the AP.
The embassy said 12 Philippine soldiers, six of whom were armed, entered the lagoon and harassed the Chinese fishermen.
In a statement posted on its official website yesterday, China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) said it ordered Haijian-84 and Haijian-75, which were in the area carrying out regular patrols, on Tuesday to protect the Chinese fishermen.
The SOA said the surveillance ships are still in the waters of Huangyan Island, and the fishermen, who were from Hainan Province, are safe.
The Philippine government said the two Chinese patrol ships were blocking efforts by its navy flagship vessel to arrest the fishermen, AFP reported. The AP quoted a Philippine navy official as saying that Manila was sending more vessels to the lagoon.
A Philippine warship was at a standoff with a Chinese patrol vessel and fishing boat yesterday around Huangyan Islet of the Nansha Islands yesterday. The attempt by the Philippines to expel and capture Chinese boats was not successful. The standoff continued as of last night while both sides expressed wishes to end the impasse peacefully.
The standoff happened in China’s conventional fishing areas. The Philippines has never had actual control of the Huangyan Islet. The response of the Chinese side has followed normal procedure when its assets were under military threat by the Philippines.
The patrol vessel can effectively protect Chinese fishing boats and crew without the participation of China’s navy as the incident has showed. This is progress in China exerting sovereignty over the Nansha Islands.
This reaction would change the expectations of other parties concerning China’s attitude toward South China Sea disputes. Peace and stability in the area are still what China strives for but it will not make unprincipled concessions to the recklessness of neighboring countries. A resolute response to protecting its interests should be expected from China.
The disputes are more complex when outside participants get involved. The US is encouraging the Philippines and Vietnam to take more risks.
Charting troubled waters needs a clear action plan. Disputes and harassment should not deter Chinese fishermen from their conventional fisheries. Unprotected fishing boats are often detained by neighboring countries. They need close escorts by patrol vessels, including to help with confrontations at times like these.
If Chinese fishing boats or vessels are attacked by navy ships belonging to the Philippines or Vietnam, it will signal the escalation of disputes. A response from the Chinese navy should be expected. Should a military clash happen in South China Sea, China will not fire the first shot but will react accordingly.
China is not willing to solve South China Sea disputes through military means. It has the patience to work out solutions with the countries concerned through negotiation. It has remained reserved in protecting its interests.
The Philippines is taking a radical approach to divert domestic pressure. But China will not compromise its principles to appease its fitful neighbor.
Since its announcement that it would launch the Kwangmyongsong-3 satellite in mid-April, North Korea has warned that any country that intercepts the long-range rocket would face retaliation and merciless punishment, has made intense preparations, and has installed the rocket for the planned satellite mission on the launch pad. Now the satellite launch is inevitable.
The US, Japan and South Korea insist this is a disguised long-range missile test, and vow to shoot down any part of the rocket that poses a threat. The tension in the Korean Peninsula is increasing day by day.
Some idealists call for enhancing mutual trust to dissolve suspicions, while some observers propose giving North Korea a chance to show its peaceful intentions.
It seems that many are underestimating the strategic considerations by countries involved in this incident. In fact, both sides have pondered before taking any actions, and seek to achieve several things at one stroke. Before long, people will find that in this game, the one who’s exposed to a real diplomatic ordeal is a party who’s not directly involved, China. China’s diplomacy may face up to five painful tests after the launch.
The first test is whether China should accept North Korea’s invitation to send observers to watch the satellite’s launch live. In a bid to demonstrate its peaceful intentions, North Korea has invited space agencies of eight countries to observe the planned satellite launch. The aerospace agencies of US, Japan and Russia have rejected the invitation, and now China has to make a choice.
If China accepts the invitation, this behavior itself would be a sign of support for the satellite’s launch, which contradicts China’s earlier voicing of concern of this satellite launch plan, and will inevitably trigger doubts and speculation among the international community. Besides, China will be forced to stand at the side of countries suspected of nuclear proliferation. But if China refused to send observers, it will face explicit anger and even further counteractions by North Korea.
The second test is whether China should raise a protest if the satellite deviates from its planned orbit and passes over the territory of Japan and South Korea.
North Korea may move the orbit westward, which raises the possibility of passing over Chinese territory. If this really takes place, and China voices its protest, the relationship between the two will plummet suddenly. But if China keeps silent, the public will surely be unhappy and doubt the government’s credibility.
The third test is whether China should vote for or against the likely draft resolution by the US, Japan and South Korea, after North Korea’s satellite launch is brought again to the UN Security Council for discussion. At that time, everyone will focus on China’s attitude.
China will have three choices. The first will be to support a draft resolution condemning North Korea, which will win applause from most countries in the international community, but enrage North Korea. The second is to exercise its veto. Then the US, Japan and South Korea will further see China as a supporter of North Korea’s “aggressive behavior” and as representing North Korea’s interests, and this will place greater pressure on China’s diplomatic, political and military affairs. China’s diplomatic and neighboring environment will further deteriorate.
China will most likely turn to the third option, proposing the release of a mild and symbolic chairman’s statement. But this option is most embarrassing and satisfies neither side.
The fourth test is which stand China will choose toward North Korea’s follow-up actions. No matter the UN Security Council passes a draft resolution or a chairman’s statement, North Korea will undoubtedly give an intense response.
At that time, it will be a question whether China should continue its long-held North Korea policy or conduct some adjustment. This is not only a problem of diplomacy and international politics, but one of domestic politics.
The fifth test is when facing the increasingly dangerous Peninsula dynamics, how China should respond to external criticism against China’s “generous aid” to North Korea. As North Korea has just experienced a leadership shift, China, with the stability-first mentality, has provided a great deal of food, oil and financial aid to North Korea.
This has been criticized by the international community as providing aid to a country that insists on military-first politics and nuclear development. US President Barack Obama has publicly censured China as being responsible for a series of moves by North Korea at the moment. It is a difficult problem how China can convince the international community that its aid to North Korea has nothing to do with this country’s current words and behaviors.
On Peninsula dynamics, there is some strategic thinking which advocates the return of Cold War structure and clique politics. China is embarrassed in this process. In recent years, the Peninsula dynamics have been full of rapid, unpredictable changes. But understanding these takes real wisdom.
Compare & Contrast: China’s 21st Century Ming Fleet
China’s City Busters
Taking the fight from the South China Sea to America:
“If you annihilate the top 20 American cities, you are talking about roughly 30 million dead plus nuclear fallout. This is called nuclear deterrence.”
Those above, all 5,000km – the Great Tunnel Wall (not for tourist) – are for these, below.