Xi Jinping

President Xi Jinping holds summit with Myanmar President Thein Sein

Summit signals desire to revive strategic partnership after a period of 'cooling off'

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 07 April, 2013, 5:44am

A summit between President Xi Jinping and his Myanmese counterpart, Thein Sein, signalled both nations' desire to revive their strategic partnership, which had cooled since the civilian government came to power, according to a Chinese expert on the Southeast Asian nation.

Xi met five visiting presidents - Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan, Enrique Pena Nieto of Mexico, Ollanta Humala of Peru, Sauli Niinisto of Finland and Michael Chilufya Sata of Zambia - after meetings yesterday with Thein Sein and Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah of Brunei ahead of the Boao Forum in Hainan.

Leaders of a dozen nations are set to attend the main session of the forum today and Xi is due to deliver the opening speech.

Xi and Thein Sein agreed to "enrich the comprehensive strategic partnership between China and Myanmar," according to a joint communiqué issued by Xinhua. Both leaders pledged to boost "all-round" co-operation.

Fan Hongwei , an expert on Myanmar affairs at Xiamen University's Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, said the summit signalled a willingness to mend ties after two years of uncertainty.

Fan said Myanmar's previous military dictatorship had for decades looked to China for support.

But since coming to power in 2011, Thein Sein's government had rolled out economic and political reforms and forged new relations with major powers such as the US, Japan and India. They in turn had scrapped sanctions that been in place for years.

Some analysts warned that China's economic and strategic footing in Myanmar was slipping, citing Thein Sein's decision in 2011 to bow to public opinion and halt work on the China-backed Myitsone dam in Kachin state, which was seen by many as a sign of the limits of Beijing's influence.

"It is a very positive development, as the joint communiqué sent a clear message that top leaders are willing to build an all-round strategic partnership, though I cannot say that whether their ties can reach the levels under military rule," Fan said.