Beijing's first special envoy for Asia to focus on Myanmar

Ex-deputy foreign chief faces series of difficult issues as he takes on new post

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 12 March, 2013, 5:08am

Former deputy foreign minister Wang Yingfan has been appointed China's first special envoy for Asian affairs, a foreign ministry spokeswoman said.

Hua Chunying said 71-year-old Wang, who was appointed a deputy minister in 1995 and became China's ambassador to the United Nations five years later, would focus on relations with Myanmar.

Professor Fan Hongwei , an expert in Myanmese affairs at Xiamen University , said the appointment was made because Sino-Myanmese relations faced complications, even though both nations had pledged in January that oil and gas pipelines connecting the two nations would be used by the end of May.

The relationship has become trickier for Beijing following political reforms implemented by Myanmar since 2011 and its opening up to Western countries.

The decision to suspend a US$3.6 billion dam project that had Chinese involvement last year cast a shadow over ties.

A Chinese company asked the Myanmese public last month to be patient until the release of the final report on an inquiry into a Chinese-backed copper mine project. Activists claim it will have adverse environmental and social impacts.

Ongoing confrontations between the Myanmese government and rebels near the Chinese border have caused further complications. "China wants to ensure that its interests in Myanmar will be protected and not be affected by rebels," Fan said.

But he added that whether Wang could have a significant impact remained to be seen.

Ethnic problems in Myanmar and whether the country would be more inclined to consider Western interests were issues that were out of China's hands, he added.

Wang graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University in 1964. He held posts in the Chinese embassies in Ghana and Britain and was ambassador to the Philippines from 1988 to 1990.