By Chen Hai
At the invitation of Myanmar’s President U Win Myint, Chinese President Xi Jinping will pay a state visit to Myanmar from Jan. 17 to 18. It is Xi’s first overseas trip this year, and the first visit to Myanmar by a Chinese president in 19 years.
The journey will start a new phase in China-Myanmar relations as this year also marks the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
China and Myanmar, two neighbors connected by mountains and rivers, enjoy a time-honored friendship. People of the two countries have regarded each other as “Paukphaw”, meaning brothers, and people of Myanmar describe the friendly relations between the two countries as the “gold and silver road“.
Despite different social systems, Myanmar took the lead in recognizing the People’s Republic of China. The then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited Myanmar nine times. The relationship between the two countries has evolved from their joint implementation of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence they initially advocated to the addressing of boundary issues left over by history through friendly negotiations, leaving behind a trail of widely told stories.
In recent years, the China-Myanmar comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership has enjoyed sustained development with the strategic guidance of leaders of the two countries. Both countries have witnessed frequent high-level mutual visits, enhanced political mutual trust, close economic ties, more personnel exchanges, in-depth cultural exchanges, solid progress in practical cooperation in various areas, and benefits deeply rooted in the hearts of the two peoples.
China and Myanmar are now working together to pave a “gold and silver road” in the new era.
The “gold and silver road” in the new era is a road of mutual trust and cooperation. President Xi Jinping met with Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi several times in bilateral and multilateral settings, and outlined the blueprint for the development of China-Myanmar ties.
The two countries enjoy close exchanges in various fields such as legislation, administration, justice, political parties, military, and people-to-people engagement, laying a solid foundation for bilateral relations.
China supports Myanmar in safeguarding its sovereign independence and territorial integrity, respects its independent choice of development path, and backs its national reconciliation and peace process. Myanmar gives firm support on issues related to China’s core interests such as Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang.
The two sides maintain close communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, further cooperation in mechanisms including China-ASEAN cooperation and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation, and make positive contributions to promoting the development of each other and maintaining regional peace and stability.
The “gold and silver road” in the new era is a road of prosperity and development. China is Myanmar’s largest trading partner and the most important investment partner. Focusing on the joint building of the Belt and Road Initiative and the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), the two countries have seen deepening practical cooperation in recent years. They set up a joint committee for the CMEC, and Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi serves as Myanmar’s chairperson of the Belt and Road guiding committee.
With the joint efforts of both sides, China-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines and other projects have greatly benefited people’s livelihood. At the same time, progress has been made in pillar projects such as the Kyaukpyu special economic zone and the China-Myanmar border economic cooperation zone.
The “gold and silver road” in the new era is also a road of closer people-to-people ties. China and Myanmar have maintained increasingly active people-to-people exchanges with the further development of bilateral relations.
Now, over 150 flights shuttle between the two countries every week, and more and more Chinese tourists have visited the Southeast Asian country attracted by its distinct natural scenery, history and cultural heritage.
Chinese films or TV series have captivated more and more viewers in Myanmar, including The Dream of Red Mansions, Journey to the West and Struggle, rousing the wave of “China fever” again in the country in recent years.
The two nations have also conducted extensive exchanges and cooperation in the fields of culture, art and archeology. Supporting Bagan’s successful bid for the UNESCO World Heritage List, China is now restoring the Thatbyinnyu Temple, a famous temple located in Bagan.
China has also conducted extensive cooperation on livelihood projects with Myanmar. A large number of projects, such as China-Myanmar friendship schools and friendship hospitals and villages demonstrating poverty reduction progress, have brought tangible benefits to the local people. China’s experience has also helped people in Myanmar get rid of poverty and create a better life.
All circles in Myanmar attach great importance to and warmly welcome Xi’s visit, which will become a new milestone in the history of China-Myanmar relations.
The two countries will take Xi’s visit as an opportunity to further consolidate their traditional friendship, advance comprehensive strategic cooperation, build a China-Myanmar community with a shared future, and jointly create a better future for bilateral relations. It is believed that with the joint efforts of both sides, the “gold and silver road” for bilateral friendly cooperation in the new era will surely become broader as it goes.
(The author is Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar.)