The military coup in Myanmar provides a starting point for tough confrontation between Washington and Beijing in Southeast Asia
One of the main events of the past week was the February 1 coup in Myanmar. And this event, no doubt, can have a decisive significance for the fate of the world, because it may turn out to be the prologue of a new cold war in the world.
This country is located, in the literal sense, in the very heart of Southeast Asia (in the western part of Indochina) and is thus at the intersection of all conceivable and inconceivable routes (from south to north, from west to east, etc.) in Southeast Asia. From the east it borders with Thailand and Laos, from the west – with Bangladesh and India, from the north – with China. The southwest of the country is washed by the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea.
About a third of the world’s inhabitants live in countries neighboring with Myanmar, and therefore, it is safe to say that whoever controls this point on the world map controls the entire Southeast Asia, which, judging by the pace of economic development of the countries of this region, in the XXI century will become the main key region of the world.
Consequently, whoever manages to establish his control over Myanmar will control Southeast Asia, and whoever takes control of Southeast Asia will be able to influence the future of the whole world, the entire planet. That is why now a serious struggle has unfolded for this country.
Until 2011, China won this fight, since the state (Myanmar) was ruled by the leftist-minded military who came to power in Myanmar (then the country was still called Burma) on September 18, 1988 as a result of a rebellion. They called themselves SLORC (State Law and Order Reconciliation Council). In 1997, SLORC was abolished and transformed into SPDC (State Peace and Development Council).
Members of the junta, composed of eleven senior officers, wielded much more power than cabinet ministers, who were either junior military or civilians. The leader of the junta was the Minister of Defense.
On May 27, 1990, multi-party parliamentary elections were held in Myanmar for the first time, in which, having won 392 of 492 seats, the National League for Democracy (NLD) won a convincing victory, led by the fighter for democracy, politician, diplomat, writer Aung San Suu Kyi (who later became a laureate of the Nobel Peace Prize (1991), State Counselor of Myanmar (equivalent to the Prime Minister) and Minister of Foreign Affairs.
However, the junta rejected the election results and placed Aung San Suu Kyi under house arrest.
Subsequently (September 15, 1993), the junta established the Union Solidarity and Development Party, which on March 29, 2010, on the eve of the elections, was reformatted into the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP). But this, of course, did not change the essence of the regime, and it was still accused of human rights violations.
It should be noted here that the Western countries and India strongly supported Aung San Suu Kyi. And ultimately, the situation in Myanmar developed in such a way that on November 13, 2010, the junta had to release the dissident from house arrest, and a year later, and completely abandon the dictatorship. Moreover, in 2016, the junta even allowed Aung San Suu Kyi to “steer” the state.
Everyone, of course, immediately perceived this as a victory for democracy. The Western countries and the Americans, including, were terribly happy, restored diplomatic relations with Myanmar, began to expand contacts with it, and so on.
In general, things seemed to go well – the military stepped aside, reforms and democratization began, Aung San Suu Kyi and her supporters would step by step win back the military’s powers. But this did not happen – the generals managed to outplay the reformers by organizing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims.
Aung San Suu Kyi did not find the strength to openly oppose the junta and demand an end to the genocide. Moreover, she refused to admit that the military had committed massacres. In 2019 in The Hague, before the International Court of Justice, she defended the Myanmar military against charges of genocide against the Rohingya. Apparently, she really did not want to spoil relations with the generals. In addition, by defending the Rohingya, Aung San Suu Kyi risked losing the lion’s share of her electorate, thereby endangering her political career. After all, in Myanmar, no one likes Rohingya Muslims much.
However, the Rohingya genocide inflicted such a blow on Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation that she was deprived of political support in the West, ceasing to consider her an “icon of democracy”, and they even wanted to take away the Nobel Prize from her.
It seemed that the generals managed to get rid of a rival who was trying to reduce the dominant role of the junta to the role of conventional military. However, this did not happen – on the contrary, Aung San Suu Kyi’s game presented them with an extremely unpleasant surprise. Following the parliamentary elections on November 8, 2020, the NLD once again inflicted a crushing defeat on the USDP, gaining a qualifying majority (396 seats).
This seriously alarmed the military. They realized that Aung San Suu Kyi, who received such widespread support from the people, could gain such strength and influence that would allow her to limit the power of the military and recall the Rohingya trick. It is clear that the military did not like this prospect, so they said that the electoral lists were forged, which turned out to be taken into account 8 million illegal votes.
However, despite accusations of electoral manipulation, the Myanmar government did not intend to obstruct the February 1 meeting of the new parliament. And then the military came to the fore again and declared the election results to be falsified. So on February 1, a putsch took place, Aung San Suu Kyi was arrested and overthrown along with other NLD leaders. On the same day, the court stated that soldiers, while searching her villa in Naypyidaw, found imported communications equipment without proper documents, and on this basis authorized the detention of the state councilor for 15 days. Aung San Suu Kyi was released that evening, but on February 3 she was formally charged with smuggling ten or more radios, for which she faces up to three years in prison.
The military announced that power passed into their hands for a time, for about 1 year. At least for this period, they introduced a state of emergency. But, as the American libertarian, educator and social critic Albert Jay Nock rightly observed, “There is nothing more permanent than temporary.” Moreover, there are no signs that the junta is going to “crawl away”. On the contrary, it seems that they came seriously and for a long time. She rolled back the situation to 2011 and it looks like a dictatorship is being established in the country that will be loyal to China and, apparently, hostile to the West and India.
It is not surprising, therefore, that Beijing, unlike other countries, did not condemn the putsch, but said that it was Myanmar’s internal affair. Although, it is clear that this was not without Chinese participation.
It must be said that China is already actively pumping oil, gas and other minerals from Myanmar. There are many Chinese companies operating there. But this is all a trifle compared to the infrastructure project “One Belt – One Road”, which is conceived as the main tool for establishing the global dominance of China’s power. And the implementation of this project is simply unthinkable without Myanmar. Again, because it is located at the center of all trade routes in Southeast Asia. And the one who controls Southeast Asia controls the whole world in the 21st century. Therefore, for China, control over Myanmar or maximally friendly relations with Myanmar is a matter of its well-being not only in the 21st century, but also in the next. In addition, the allied Myanmar is extremely important for China so that it can, if necessary, pose a threat to states in the orbit of American influence – for example, India and Thailand. Having gained access to the ports of Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal, China can create a naval base there to provide its warships in maximum proximity to the shores of the aforementioned countries.
In a word, for China, having control or influence over Myanmar is a task of paramount importance and, of course, Beijing will not abandon this idea so easily.
As for the USA, Great Britain, EU countries and India, they categorically condemned the military coup and demanded that the country be returned to democracy and civil rule. Because they understood that Myanmar is actually leaving and flowing out of their hands.
And since, for the West and India that joined it, the possible restoration of democracy in Myanmar will not allow China to turn this country into a puppet and, in fact, into an economic colony and a military base, there is no doubt that they will again help Aung San Suu Kyi return to governance country, despite its criminal position in the history of the genocide of Rohingya Muslims.
In theory, there is a chance to return Aung San Suu Kyi to governing the country, since she enjoys tremendous support from the people. People love her, and it is not coincidence that recently she won the elections by a large margin. Therefore, she decided to call on fellow citizens to protest against the military regime. Her call was heard, and people took to the streets of Myanmar cities. Obviously, the protest movement will receive full support from the Americans. Moreover, the new US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken is a big fan of overthrowing tyrants and dictators.
However, as the experience of the protest movements in Venezuela and Belarus has shown, without a split among the security forces, the protest movement is not able to prevail over the dictatorship.
But, one way or another, a real cold war begins for Myanmar between the PRC and the United States and their allies. And this conflict falls into the broader outline of the already existing conflict between the United States and China.
In Washington, they consider illegal all of Beijing’s claims to waters outside the 12-mile territorial zone around the Spratly archipelago, meaning, in particular, the waters surrounding the Vanguard Bank off the coast of Vietnam, the Malaysian Luconne reefs, an area within the exclusive economic zone of Brunei and the island of Natuna Besar belonging to Indonesia, and the continental shelf in the James Shallows near Malaysia.
In this regard, it can be noted that, according to the South China Morning Post, in January, Chinese aircraft flew 29 times into the zone of responsibility of the Air Defense of Taiwan, which China considers its integral part, – more than before. The number of violations last year was the largest since 1996, the period of the previous crisis.
On January 23, the Taiwan authorities announced the flight of 12 Chinese Air Force aircraft in the Taiwan air defense identification zone. In turn, the new administration of US President Joe Biden called on the PRC to end pressure on Taiwan. Washington also sent an aircraft carrier strike group to the South China Sea, to which Beijing responded with four-day military exercises.
Against the backdrop of the growing conflict between the United States and China, on the eve of July 14, the US missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114) made a transit through a 12-mile territorial zone around the Spratly archipelago in the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong, where the Chinese have completely eradicated democracy, is rapidly transforming from a British city with a Chinese name to an ordinary Chinese city.
But, not only the Americans have friction with the Celestial Empire. India also has two very serious armed conflicts with China. These are the Chola and Ladakh incidents. In the first case, we are talking about a clash between the troops of India and China, which occurred on October 1-2, 1967 on the border of the Indian state of Sikkim (located in the north-east of the country, in the Himalayas) in the Chola mountain range.
The Ladakh conflict took place on May 5, 2020, over the disputed Aksaychin region on the border of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China, Pakistan and India. The territory is controlled by China, but contested by India, which includes the region in the union territory of Ladakh.
In a word, in different parts of Southeast Asia, China has grappled with the United States, various American allies and India. Former adviser to US President Donald Trump, Stephen Bannon said in 2017 that within 10 years between the United States and China there will be a hot war for supremacy in Southeast Asia. When he said this, many laughed. But who knows, maybe he’s right? Could something really start?
In any case, the conflict over Myanmar promises to be very tense. And whoever wins will determine how the world will be governed – according to Chinese or American laws. That is, what will the world be like – Chinese (Pax Sinica) or American (Pax Americana)?
Source: Turan News Agency