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After Pakistan, China trying to build economic corridor to Myanmar

After Pakistan, China trying to build economic corridor to MyanmarBEIJING: China and Myanmar are close to signing a deal on the establishment of a China-Myanmar Economic Corridor along the lines of the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Once launched, the project will unleash a massive inflow of Chinese funds to Myanmar which can further weaken Indian influence over its eastern neighbour.

A senior Myanmar official, U Aung Naing Oo, director-general of investment and company administration, said on Wednesday the two countries will sign a memorandum of understanding to build the corridor. The move will be based on a previous broad agreement on building basic infrastructure, enhancing telecommunication facilities and improving transport and agriculture in Myanmar, he said.

Though the two governments are keen on the project, there are several challenges that can block its progress, sources said. Ethnic conflicts in different parts of Myanmar and anti-Chinese sentiment among a section of Myanmese are among the reasons. There is also the fear of a debt trap in Myanmar, which had earlier cancelled construction of a Chinese-financed dam project.

“Myanmar can’t sidestep the One Belt One Road initiative even though we have many views regarding the debt threat,” U Maung Maung Lay, vice-president of the Federation of Chambers of Commerce of Myanmar, said.

The planned corridor would connect the Chinese province of Yunnan and three important economic centres in Myanmar — Mandalay, Yangon New City and Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ). The economic corridor will also enhance connectivity between Yangoon and the troubled Rakhine state of Myanmar.

A Chinese expert, Peng Nian, wrote in the Beijing-based Global Times that the agreement on the corridor showed that suspicion about Chinese investments was dying. “Moreover, Myanmar would prefer to integrate itself into the region by initiating the CMEC as it is unsatisfied with the slow progress of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar Economic Corridor,” wrote Peng of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies in Hainan province.

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