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China’s influence in Myanmar could tip the scales towards war in the South China Sea

<p>The fate of Myanmar has major implications for a free and open Indo-Pacific.</p> <p>An undemocratic Myanmar serves no one’s interests except China, which is consolidating its economic and strategic influence in its smaller neighbour in pursuit of its <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">two-ocean strategy</a>.</p> <p>Since the coup China has been – by far – the main source of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">foreign investment</a> in Myanmar.</p> <p>This includes <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">US$2.5 billion</a> in a gas-fired power plant to be built west of Myanmar’s capital, Yangon, that will be 81% owned and operated by Chinese companies.</p> <p>Among the dozens of infrastructure projects China is funding are high-speed rail links and dams. But its most strategically important investment is the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">China-Myanmar Economic Corridor</a>, encompassing oil and gas pipelines, roads and rail links costing many tens of billions of dollars.</p> <p>The corridor’s “jewel in the crown” is a deep-sea port to be built at Kyaukphyu, on Myanmar’s west coast, at an estimated <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">cost of US$7 billion</a>.</p> <p>This will finally give China its long-desired “back door” to the Indian Ocean.</p> <p>Natural gas from Myanmar can help China reduce its dependence on imports from suppliers such as Australia. Access <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">to the Indian Ocean</a> will enable China to import gas and oil from the Middle East, Africa and Venezuela without ships having to pass through the contested waters of the South China Sea to Chinese ports.</p> <p>About <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">80% of China’s oil imports</a> now move through the South China Sea via the Malacca Strait, which is just 65 kilometres wide at its narrowest point between the Malay Peninsula and Indonesia’s Sumatra.</p> <p>Overcoming this strategic vulnerability arguably makes the Kyaukphyu port and pipelines the most important element of China’s <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Belt and Road initiative</a> to reshape global trade routes and assert its influence over other nations.</p> <h2>Deepening relationship</h2> <p>Most of China’s infrastructure investment was planned before Myanmar’s coup. But whereas other governments and foreign investors have sought to distance themselves from the junta since it overthrew Myanmar’s elected government in February 2021, China has deepened its relationship.</p> <p>China is the Myanmar regime’s most important international supporter. In April Foreign Minister Wang Yi said <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">China would support Myanmar</a> “no matter how the situation changes”. In May it used its veto power on the United Nations Security Council to thwart <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a statement expressing concern</a> about violence and the growing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.</p> <p>Work continues on projects associated with the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor. New ventures (such as the aforementioned power station) have been approved. More projects are on the cards. In June, for example, China’s embassy in Myanmar announced the completion of <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">a feasibility study</a> to upgrade the Wan Pong port on the Lancang-Mekong River in Myanmar’s east.</p> <h2>Debt trap warnings</h2> <p>In 2020, before the coup, Myanmar’s auditor general Maw Than <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">warned of growing indebtedness</a> to China, with Chinese lenders charging higher interest payments than those from the International Monetary Fund or World Bank.</p> <p>At that time <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">about 40%</a> of Myanmar’s foreign debt of US$10 billion was owed to China. It is likely to be greater now. It will only increase the longer a military dictatorship, with few other supporters or sources of foreign money, remains in power, <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">dragging down Myanmar’s economy</a>.</p> <p>Efforts to restore democracy in Myanmar should therefore be seen as crucial to the long-term strategic interests of the region’s democracies, and to global peace and prosperity, given the increasing belligerence of China under Xi Jinping.</p> <p>Xi, now president for life, this month told the People’s Liberation Army to <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">prepare for war</a>. A compliant and indebted Myanmar with a deep-sea port controlled by Chinese interests tips the scales towards that happening.</p> <p>A democratic and independent Myanmar is a counter-strategy to this potential.</p> <h2>Calls for sanctions</h2> <p>Myanmar’s democracy movement wants the international community to impose <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">tough sanctions</a> on the junta. But few have responded.</p> <p>The United States and United Kingdom have gone furthest, banning business dealings with Myanmar military officials and state-owned or private companies controlled by the military.</p> <p>The European Union and Canada have imposed sanctions against a more limited range of individuals and economic entities.</p> <p>South Korea has suspended financing new infrastructure projects. Japan has suspended aid and postponed the launch of Myanmar’s first satellite. New Zealand has suspended political and military contact.</p> <p>Australia has suspended military cooperation (with some <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">pre-existing restrictions</a> on dealing with military leaders imposed following the human rights atrocities committed against the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Rohingya</a> in 2017.</p> <p>But that’s about it.</p> <p>Myanmar’s closest neighbours in the ten-member Association of South-East Asian Nations are still committed to a policy of dialogue and “<a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">non-interference</a>” – though <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Malaysia</a> and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Indonesia</a> are increasingly arguing for a tougher approach as the atrocities mount.</p> <p>The <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project</a> says the only country now more violent than Myanmar is Ukraine.</p> <p>Given its unique geo-strategic position, self-interest alone should be enough for the international community to take greater action.</p> <p><strong>This article originally appeared on <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Conversation</a>.</strong></p> <p><em>Image: Shutterstock</em></p>


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“It’s a massive coup”: Royal’s new TV role

<p dir="ltr">Mike Tindall is reported to be taking part in the new season of Australia’s <em>I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!</em></p> <p dir="ltr"><a href=";utm_medium=sharebar_app&amp;utm_campaign=sharebar_app_article" target="_blank" rel="noopener">The Sun</a> reported that the husband of Princess Anne’s daughter Zara, will be heading to Australia to appear on the show. </p> <p dir="ltr">"It's a massive coup. Mike has had a box seat for some of the most important moments in royal history for generations,” a source told the publication.</p> <p dir="ltr">"He is sure to be discreet, but his sheer presence means this series will be an absolute must-watch."</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!</em> Is due to hit the screens in November and the lineup will be announced closer to the launch date.</p> <p dir="ltr">If rumours are true that Mike will be appearing on the show, it will make him the first royal to sign up for the long-running programme.</p> <p dir="ltr">Others however have compared Mike’s move to Meghan Markle’s previous role in the huge Netflix series <em>Suits</em>.</p> <p dir="ltr">This prompted a response from renowned UK journalist Piers Morgan who pointed out that the Tindall’s were never working royals. </p> <p dir="ltr">"There will be some who sneer today that Tindall shouldn’t be degrading himself by taking part in a TV reality show and comparing him to royal renegades Meghan and Harry, who quit Britain and royal duty to ruthlessly exploit their titles for massive commercial gain in America,” Piers wrote.</p> <p dir="ltr">"But here's the difference: the Tindalls have never been working royals, had any royal titles, or received any public money. They are self-sufficient financially, trading off their mutual huge success in the sporting arena."</p> <p dir="ltr">Mike and Zara married in 2011 and have three children, Mia, eight, Lena, four, and Lucas, one.</p> <p dir="ltr"><em>Image: Getty</em></p>


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Woman shot as armed pro-Trump protestors storm US Capitol

<p><span>A woman was shot on Thursday morning after hundreds of MAGA supporters stormed the Capitol building in Washington DC.</span><br /><br /><span>The Donald Trump supporters made one final bid to overthrow democracy as the president carries out his final days in office.</span><br /><br /><span>A number of protestors not only swarmed the streets but managed to breach into the US capitol building, breaking through barriers and withstanding tear gas as well as an armed standoff.</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">A person on a stretcher just wheeled out with what appears to be a serious injury. <a href=""></a></p> — Michael Del Moro (@MikeDelMoro) <a href="">January 6, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><br /><span>Reports said that one woman was in “critical condition” after being shot in the chest, and that resuscitation efforts were underway.</span><br /><br /><span>It has been suggested that an officer was the one who fired the shot, however the circumstances surrounding the situation are yet to be determined.</span><br /><br /><span>WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGERY</span></p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p dir="ltr">BREAKING: Trump supporters have breached the Capitol building, tearing down 4 layers of security fencing and are attempting to occupy the building — fighting federal police who are overrun <br /><br />This is the craziest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. Thousands, police can’t stop them <a href=""></a></p> — ELIJAH SCHAFFER (@ElijahSchaffer) <a href="">January 6, 2021</a></blockquote> <p><span></span><br /><br /><span>House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy confirmed the shooting in an interview with Fox News, saying, "I'm with Capital police, I heard on the radio: 'Shots fired.'"</span><br /><br /><span>"I have been in this Capitol for more than 10 years and I've never seen anything like this," McCarthy added.</span><br /><br /><span>Media commentators were audibly shaken up as they likened the “attempted coup” to that of a “third world country” or “civil war”.</span><br /><br /><span>“This is just Bedlam … this is Trump’s rebellion,” one said, adding the situation was “very, very tense” and “out of control”.</span><br /><br /><span>Trump, who lost the popular and electoral college vote in the 2020 presidential elections, has continued to dispute the results without evidence.</span><br /><br /><span>As of Thursday morning, the only message the US president has made is a tweet urging Americans to “Please support our Capitol Police and Law Enforcement. They are truly on the side of our Country. Stay peaceful!”</span></p>


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