BANGKOK: Growing concerns regarding China’s debt trap policy and emergence as a global superpower has started to threaten the progress of a jewel of the initiative, the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor.
The project is basically a rail network section that connects western China to Myanmar and the development is seen as crucial because it has the potential to open up a vital route to the Indian Ocean, according to Nikkei Asia.
The West cut off aid to Myanmar after the military took control in 2021 and China rushed to aid the country under its Belt and Road infrastructure-building initiative.
The new route was made possible by a railway link between the western Chinese cities of Lincang and Dali, which began operating in December 2020. It will “shorten the transportation distance and time” and optimize international shipments from inland China to the Middle East and Europe, China’s Communist Party-affiliated Global Times reported.
However, Myanmar relatively has little foreign debt. Its external debt stock equalled 17 per cent of gross national income as of 2020, compared with 95 per cent for Laos and 71 per cent for Cambodia, according to the World Bank.
China Railway is also involved in projects in Myanmar. It signed a memorandum of understanding with Myanmar’s state railway in 2018 to conduct a feasibility study for a rail link between Muse, a town across the border from Ruili, and Mandalay. The project includes 36 stations, 124 bridges and 60 tunnels, and is estimated to cost USD 8.9 billion, Nikkei Asia reported.
Now, due to growing tensions in the country, Myanmar’s military government facing increasing isolation on the international stage, Naypyitaw is only expected to rely more heavily on ties with Beijing and Moscow.