Following is the interview with Ambassador of China to Myanmar Mr Hong Liang.
As the saying goes, “Friends are chosen, but neighbours come with the house.” According to the historical record saying that during the reign of King Liu Qi of Han Dynasty, a Chinese delegation went to Afghanistan via Myanmar and another record stating that an ancient Myanmar musical troupe visited Changan (now, Xian) in 801 during the Han dynasty, is proof that China-Myanmar relations had lasted for nearly 2000 years.
Yangtze and Ayeyawady Rivers can prove bilateral co-operations in various sectors. Myanmar was among the first countries to recognize establishment of the People’s Republic of China, and Myanmar supported the PRC’s efforts to join the United Nations as a member country, from the very beginning.
Following the friendly state visit of Chou En Lai, Premier of PRC to Myanmar in June, 1954, China-Myanmar relations improved to such a high level and the two countries were able to issue bilateral communiqué on the “5 Principles of Peaceful Co-existence.”
Successive leaders from both sides have been fostering the relations of brotherhood. At such a time, the Myanmar News Agency has conducted an exclusive interview with H.E. Mr Hong Liang, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Myanmar.
Interviewer: Please let me know your attitudes towards the current China-Myanmar relations.
Ambassador: After forming the new Myanmar Government, Mr Wang Yi, the incumbent Minister of Foreign Affairs of PRC visited Myanmar as the first-ever Foreign Minister. That trip was made to stress the important role of China-Myanmar bilateral co-operation. And it showed that the Government of the People’s Republic of China supported the new Myanmar Government.
At the invitation of Li Keqiang, the current Premier of the State Council of the PRC, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the State Counsellor, paid a State Visit last August. The trip was of great success. During the visit, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi friendly discussions with Mr Xi Jinping, President of PRC, Mr Li Keqiang and Mr Zhang Dejiang, Speaker of Chinese Parliament.
Leaders from both countries agreed to implement the project, “One Belt One Policy,” together. That is, with the rapid development of China, it can help and create Myanmar People develop more than ever, and leaders from both sides agreed to implement bilateral co-operation in sectors such as the economy, agriculture, health and so on.
Besides, leaders of both countries have an important agreement. It is essential for Sino-Myanmar co-operation to help Myanmar to gain peace, stability and development. It is necessary for Sino-Myanmar co-operation to help upgrade the economic and social development of the Myanmar people. Last year, the Chinese embassy in Myanmar implemented many projects to help promote the living standards of the Myanmar people.
Projects such as China-Myanmar Friendship School, China-Myanmar Friendship Scholarship, China-Myanmar Friendship Forest, are the ones which can bring about benefits for the people.
Last year on 8 June, the day on which China-Myanmar diplomatic ties commenced, the ceremony for the first China-Myanmar Friendship Day was held. By celebrating such a ceremony, relations and friendship are increasing between the two peoples. During previous years, Sino-Myanmar Brotherhood Friendship had increased. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, Commander-in-Chief of the Defense Services also visited PRC last year. This trip also gave support to the progress of relations between both armies.
In the transitional period of the State, Myanmar is facing favorable prospects. The whole populace needs to contribute their labor in accomplishing Myanmar’s development.
Myanmar’s peace is of great importance for Myanmar. Likewise, peace and stability along China-Myanmar border and co-operation and friendship between the two countries are important too. Last year, the special envoy of PRC worked closely with Myanmar Government, Myanmar Tatmataw and national ethnic armed groups. We will support to the best of our ability to push forces in the process of Myanmar Peace. We firmly believe that peace and national reconciliation can succeed through such meeting for dialogues. From our side, we will support and help the peace process of Myanmar as before. This is the hope of the Myanmar people and China’s responsibility. And, it is the hope for international communities, too.
The longer the period of combining China-Myanmar Friendly Cooperation and Peaceful Development of Myanmar take time, the deeper it will be. We are more convinced that it will suit the long-term benefits of the Myanmar People. Myanmar will become stronger and develop, as will China more than ever. We sent our solemn wish for China-Myanmar Friendly Cooperation to develop and succeed in the New Year.
Interviewer : It was learnt that the PRC donated US $ 3 million to the process of national reconciliation and internal peace. Let me know the PRC’s attitude regarding Myanmar’s peace process and, concurrently as to whether there are further plans concerning cooperation in future.
Ambassador : As said above, first of all, we will support for all to take part in the discussions in the peace process. Now, respective ministries of PRC, special envoys appointed by PRC and all PRC embassies are encouraging everyone concerned to take part in dialogues in every corner. Presently, the most important thing for the peace process is for all national ethnic armed groups to sign the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
By signing NCA, all battles can be avoided, and there can be guarantees for peace and stability along China-Myanmar Border. PRC encouraged national ethnic armed groups in northern Myanmar to actively take part in the Myanmar peace process to sign the NCA for a long time. Problems cannot be solved by weapons. As long as fighting exists problems will become worse. Increased momentum of fighting will beget increased conflicts. People from China and Myanmar are brethren, as are national ethnic people.
If there is a fighting between brethren, there will be a conflict in a family. Then, it is necessary for the whole community to stop the conflict as soon as possible, whereas for the process of stopping armed conflicts, respective parties need to be well convinced of each other. As for the PRC, we encouraged respective groups to contact more with each other. In doing so, we came to know the main cause as to why national ethnic groups in northern Myanmar did not sign the NCA yet. The main thing is misunderstanding among armed groups. Under these situations, PRC is more actively encouraging for them to closely contact for discussions. Having close meetings to discuss can increase mutual trust and understanding.
At the time of encouraging for the peace process, the regions where ethnic nationals assemble to live, economic situations are lagging behind much. They are finding it difficult to survive. We need to lay emphasis on this. It is necessary for the government to alleviate poverty by paying more attention and subsidize the regions where ethnic nationals assemble to live so that the above regions will develop and their living standards will rise up, leading to the great help for the peace process.
The people are not likely to take part in these armed conflicts. For the time being, I myself met with some youths from northern Myanmar. Having asked them why they left their origins for Yangon, they all replied that there have been more opportunities for jobs and better prospects in Yangon. I pondered it deeply later. Myanmar can develop in economy and create job opportunities for youths. So, armed conflicts can lessen. But, we know that it will yet take time to implement peace process, hence we need to implement with strong belief and great patience in performing the task.
Interviewer: We heard that the P.R.C has offered US$3 million for national reconciliation and peace process. So please tell me your country’s intention concerning this peace process and your future programme of co-operation?
Ambassador : As I said just now, our first and foremost task is to help facilitate the meeting of all parties to the peace talks with assistance for transportation and communication, etc. We’ve been urging all the ministries concerned, all the special envoys appointed for the purpose and Chinese Embassy staff in Myanmar to meet together and to discuss things over. The most important point for the peace process now is for all the armed national race groups to sign the NCA agreement. The conclusion of peace process will take time, of course. Therefore, it is necessary for us to work patiently and with full confidence. When the peace process was started, given a push, the regions where the national races dwell the economic condition was very backward. We need to be careful about this. The livelihood of those people was rather difficult. So the government needs to make concerted efforts to uplift the living conditions there and only when the economic progress in the regions have been achieved and the peoples’ livelihood have been raised, will it be helpful to the achievement of peace in the country as a whole.
The people there are not willing to participate in the war, of course. I have recently had a chance to talk with some of the young people there. I asked them why they had left their native regions and why they came to Yangon, etc. Their answer is that there are more opportunities for work and more prospects for careers here. After I talked with them, I have been thinking a lot. Myanmar’s economic conditions have made progressive strides recognizably and opportunity for employments have been opened visibly and armed conflicts could be lessened. To my mind, although the peace process would take some time, with patience and confidence it could possibly be achieved.
During the last year to boost the Myanmar’s peace process, Chinese government and Myanmar government’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Defence sponsored (2+2) talks. Under the new machinery of their talks Chinese and Myanmar’s Armed Forces could work more closely and co-operatively. The machinery enabled it to control the peace and stability of border area of the two states more effectively. China could also demonstrate the help it offers to Myanmar in its peace process.
China has committed itself to help in Myanmar’s peace process in accordance with the needs that arises. In the three years to come, China will be giving US$ 3 million for the purpose. China’s financial aids would be very different from the aids offered by other states. There will be no strings attached for the aid-political or otherwise. And we are willing to give aids and help on an ongoing basis-up to its successful conclusion.
Interviewer: We’d like to know your view on Chinese Myanmar economic co-operation works past, present and future?
Ambassador: It has been a long time ago since China became the biggest trading partner of Myanmar and also the largest investor in Myanmar. The past year’s China-Myanmar volume of trade reached US $10.00 billion and investments, excluding financial sector, reached US$ 4 billion. The real investment figures exceeded for more than the above figures. The bulk of investments from Mainland China passed through Hong Kong, Macao and ASESAN countries.
Myanmar’s economic sector could interactively help China’s economy. Especially the agricultural product sector, infrastructure sector, construction sector, tourism sectors are those that will interactively help in the growth of both countries’ economies. Myanmar has economic infrastructure corridor that started from its extreme north that passes through its central regions reaching up to its southern part. A great many economic industries of Myanmar stretched along the Ayeyawady which is dotted with innumerable big and small towns. When Myanmar makes efforts to strengthen its economy, the Ayeyawady economic corridor need to be strengthened first and foremost, inevitably. After the Ayeyawady economic corridor has been strengthen fully, we can construct China-Myanmar economic corridor in full force. We already have bilateral agreement for the construction of China-Myanmar economic corridor. The agreement is for the China-Myanmar “One Belt, One Road” co-operation programme is of prime importance. China has been negotiating with Myanmar for the construction of an Economic Zone on the Muse-Shweli frontier.
China had won a bid on international tender for the Kyaukpyu Special Economic Zone comprising construction of an Industrial Zone and Deep Water Harbour in Kyaukpyu. We hope to implement the terms of the tender as quickly as possible. We are quite happy on hearing the news that the Yangon Region government has been active in construction of a new economic zone in the region. The People’s Republic of China is hoping to participitate in the said construction of the Zone actively. We are hoping to link the Kyaukpyu Zone, the New Yangon Zone and the Northern border area zones very profitably both for China and Myanmar.
Interviewer: Mr. Ambassador, how do you feel when you first heard of the news that you will be posted to Myanmar as an Ambassador? How do you hope to overcome the challenges here?
Ambassador: I have been doing my duty here for nearly one year and a half. I felt much elated as soon as I heard the news that I’ll be posted to Myanmar. Myanmar is in the process of a big change. There are many chances for development and co-operation here. It’s a great time for China-Myanmar co-operation. I think I will be able to do many fine jobs for co-operation as an Ambassador.
Actually I know a lot of things about Myanmar. Formerly, I worked in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and my duty there was China-Myanmar relations.
Khin Maung Htwe,
Win Win Maw, Myat Sandi