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Chinese Ambitions For Indian Ocean Ports

Wednesday, 22 January 2020 | 16:00

China and Myanmar have signed 33 agreements strengthening economic ties between the two countries including a port project that will give Beijing a crucial pathway to the Indian Ocean.

As part of Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative, President Xi Jinping aims to accelerate the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor seeking to build a port in Kyaukpyu in western Myanmar, connecting it to Kunming in southern China by overland routes.

This news is welcomed by local residents in Myanmar who hope the investment will bring a better quality of life.

“We face transport difficulties, power shortages and we don’t have a big market so building only one or two factories alone cannot change the game,” commented Nyeinn Chann Maung, chairman of the Kyaukpyu District Native Ethnic Development Association.

“We have been looking forward to this project for quite a long time,” he added.

These latest deals come at a time when there is talk of China winding down overseas investments. According to maritime research consultancy firm, Drewry, investment in regions other than the Far East is almost entirely non-Chinese but the strategic location of Myanmar is important to Beijing as it would give China a land pathway to the Indian Ocean. Kyaukpyu is also the starting point of a pipeline that could send LNG and oil to China.

Beijing’s move to strengthen ties with Myanmar is seen as part of a geopolitical ambition to expand its influence in the Indian Ocean. China’s ‘String of Pearls’ strategy will see Beijing finance port projects in the area to secure routes for foreign oil and trade. Kyaukpyu is part of this strategy, raising concerns from India and other regional players, as well as the US, over the military capabilities of the ports.
Source: Port Strategy

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