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Why China?
Why is China responsible for continued dictatorship, prolong suffering and the repeated bloodshed in Burma!

Why China: To support its growing Economy, China has been exploiting Burma's natural resources cheaply by strongly pleasing the corrupted and incompetent dictators; China is also largest arm supplier, border trader and investor; China's support effectively water down the US and western sanctions. China refuse to condemn the recent killing; blocking stronger sanctions by UNSC; refuse to ask for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and the release of all political prisoners; has vetoed a Burma Resolution at the UNSC in January. China is also using Burma as its door to Indian Ocean as part of its so called "string of pearls" strategy that aims to project Chinese power overseas and protect China's energy security at home.

1. Burma China Relations Paper (download PDF)
3. Chinese dilemma over Burma protests
4.UNSC asks India to use influence on Myanmar Saturday, October 06, 2007 06:35 [IST]
China's crucial role in Burma crisis
Myanmar and the world, Destructive engagement  (
7. China, Africa and Oil (


Letter to President Hu Jintao on Burma

By Human Right Watch's Executive Director Ken Roth 
October 17, 2007  
President Hu Jintao  
People’s Republic of China  
Zhongnanhai, Xichengqu, Beijing City  
People’s Republic of China  
Dear President Hu:

On August 8, 2008, more than a billion people around the globe will celebrate the opening of the Olympic Games in Beijing. Millions of Burmese, however, are unlikely to focus that day on the Olympic theme of “One World, One Dream,” but rather will observe the 20th anniversary of the 1988 pro-democracy protests in Burma, during which an estimated 3,000 people were killed.  
We realize that your government chose to open the Beijing Olympics on 08-08-08 for symbolic reasons, but recent events in Burma mean that the spotlight on that date will also be on the continued suffering of the Burmese people. Your government has resisted efforts to link the Olympics with human rights concerns in China and in China’s relations with abusive governments. Yet your government’s reluctance to condemn the latest acts of brutality by the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), its ongoing—and crucial—support to the SPDC, and the coincidence of the two events only raises the stakes for China to act swiftly and constructively to help protect the people of Burma from further human rights abuses.  
In August and September peaceful protests were staged throughout several cities in Burma calling for improved living standards, respect for basic rights, and the conduct of a genuine political dialogue with opposition politicians, many of whom remain in prison. The response by the SPDC security forces was brutal by any measure: riot police and army units used baton charges, tear gas, and shot directly at Buddhist monks and civilians engaged in peaceful protests. It appears likely that the death toll is considerably larger than the official figure of 10, and injuries were also likely to be very high. Thousands of participants in the demonstrations were arrested; many, including monks, were reportedly tortured in custody. Hundreds of people remain unaccounted for. SPDC security forces continue to conduct nighttime arrests and intimidation of people suspected of involvement in the demonstrations. The brutal crackdown has only worsened the poor state of the economy and increased already widespread dissatisfaction with military control of the country.  
In response to the crisis, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), which rarely speaks out on human rights concerns, has publicly expressed its “revulsion” in response to Burma’s assaults on peaceful demonstrations. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the SPDC’s actions as “abhorrent and unacceptable.” The Security Council, with your government’s consent, has in a presidential statement rightly called for the release of political prisoners and the lifting of restrictions on Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.  
It is, however, regrettable that we have not heard directly from Beijing the strong words of condemnation such as those from ASEAN and from the secretary-general. Similar public criticism from China would have an immediate effect in Burma. Merely calling for peaceful resolution of the crisis without referencing the SPDC’s abuses, suggests that China does not see it as important that the lethal policies of the government should change.  
As one of Burma’s neighbors, its largest investors, and its main suppliers of weaponry, China indisputably wields the power to positively influence this situation. We have noted the Chinese government’s rhetoric expressing mild concern, yet without concrete action this changes little inside Burma.  
Given your government’s relationship with the Burmese government, as a member of the UN Security Council and Human Rights Council, and as a self-described “responsible power,” we believe China is able to bring about the dramatic improvement of the dire human rights situation in Burma by taking the following steps:  

  • Immediately place an embargo on all weapons transfers from China to Burma and suspend all military training, transport, assistance, and cooperation.  
  • Support or abstain from vetoing UN Security Council resolutions calling for sanctions or other collective action to address the crisis in Burma. Constructively engage with other Security Council members to design and adopt appropriate multilateral sanctions on Burma. Sanctions should be pegged to the government meeting specific human rights conditions. These should include the release of all persons arbitrarily detained for exercising their basic human rights to free expression, association, and assembly, and an accurate official accounting of the numbers, whereabouts, and conditions of individuals killed, arrested, and detained by the security forces.  
  • In the absence of Security Council-imposed sanctions, China (along with other countries) should act to impose targeted sanctions to encourage the steps outlined above:  
    • Sanctions, including financial sanctions, should be targeted at leading officials, both military and civilian, who bear responsibility for abuses, as well as others who may assist in, or be complicit in, the evasion of sanctions by those individuals. Those sanctioned should be identified by means of a fair process, and the sanctions should be subject to regular monitoring of both their impact on human rights and whether the steps outlined are being reached.  
    • Consistent with human rights measures previously adopted or currently under consideration by the European Union and United States, China should also ban new investment and prohibit the importation of select products from Burma.  
    • Prohibit business partnerships with or payments to entities owned or controlled by the Burmese military, and whose revenues are largely used to finance military operations (as opposed to social spending).
  • Uphold the 1951 Refugee Convention and customary international law and allow anyone fleeing persecution in Burma to cross the border into China.  
  • Suspend involvement by state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec, both official Olympic partners, in the proposed Burma-China oil and natural gas pipelines until the conditions specified above in relation to multilateral sanctions are met. As Human Rights Watch has previously described, we are concerned that the proposed construction of overland pipelines would exacerbate the serious human rights situation in Burma. In light of recent events, Human Rights Watch urged all companies to suspend activities related to onshore pipeline projects in Burma, as we do not believe it will be possible for them to carry out such projects without becoming complicit in the abuse of human rights.  
  • Instruct Chinese firms, including stated-owned firms, with business ties to Burma to publicly and fully disclose all payments made to the Burmese military, directly or through the entities it controls.  
  • Continue to urge the SPDC to engage in dialogue with its critics, and end its repression of them. The Seven Step Road Map to Democracy, which is merely a cover for continued military rule, must be scrapped and replaced with a plan that has the genuine support of Burma’s political parties and ethnic groups.  
  • Urge the SPDC to reconvene a truly representative and participatory national convention that operates through an open and transparent consultative process that could lead to a new constitutional settlement that genuinely reflects the views of all parties and leads to the creation of a civilian government.

Should the Chinese government take such steps, it is possible that on August 8, 2008—a date on which your country will be the focus of unprecedented international interest—it will likely be credited rather than criticized for its role in Burma. It is not only right that China should stand with the people of Burma against state repression and abuse, it is in China’s self-interest to do so.  
Ken Roth  
Executive Director  
Human Rights Watch



Enabling Mass Atrocities and Crimes Against Humanity

Below is publicly available information regarding Sino-Burmese military, political, and

economic relations. This by no means represents the entirety of China’s support of Burma’s

military regime, much of which is not publicly available.




Since 1989, the year after Burma’s military regime brutally suppressed a mass people’s uprising

calling for democracy – China has provided Burma’s regime with over US$2 billion worth of

weapons and military equipment1, some sold at below market prices—arms shipments continue

to this day.

With Chinese arms and military equipment, Burma’s regime has quadrupled the size of its forces

to 450,000 men, including with approximately 70,000 child soldiers - more than any other

country in the world.3 The regime has carried out a scorched earth campaign in Eastern Burma,

destroying and forcing the abandonment of more than 3,000 villages over the past ten years.4 To

put this in context a more well-known crisis, this is twice as many villages as have been

destroyed in Darfur. More than 1.5 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries or are

hiding in the jungle struggling to survive.




2007 - Than Shwe has agreed to sell Burma’s new found gas from the Shwe gas fields, about 180

billion cubic metres of gas across 20 years to China for the price of US$4.28 per million BTU.

India offered the regime US$4.76 per million BTU but Than Shwe rejected India’s offer in favor

of China’s5 costing Burma US$2.35 billion in revenue.

It gets worse - the current market rate for natural gas is around US$7.30 per million BTU and for

a long-term contract, such as this one, experts estimate the regime could have negotiated for

US$6 per million BTU. Which in real terms means Burma is losing out on US$8.4 billion in

potential natural gas revenues.

August 2007 – While Burma’s military regime sells Burma’s natural gas to China at deeply

discounted rates, it suddenly and drastically quintupled the price of compressed natural gas, and

doubled the price of oil and diesel in Burma, sending the people of Burma, more than half of

whom live on less than a US$1 a day, spiraling further into abject poverty.

China is the only country with the ability to shield Burma’s military junta from international





September 2006 - China voted No to placing Burma’s crisis on the UN Security Council’s

Agenda, but lost in a vote of 10-4-1.

January 2007 – China vetoed a peaceful UN Security Council resolution – that had garnered

enough votes to pass - that would have strengthened the Secretary General’s mandate to

resolving the crisis in Burma.



China is one of the only countries in the world to refuse to back the UN Secretary General’s call

for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and all political prisoners.

China’s refusal to stand with the rest of the world and call for the end of Aung San Suu Kyi’s

unlawful detention not only ensured Than Shwe’s had political cover for extending her house

arrest, it completely contradicted China’s own statement in which it would support ASEAN’s

position on Burma. “China will, as always, support Asean to play a leading role in addressing

the issue of Myanmar," Ambassador Wang Guangya said. Apparently not.


The only way to do business in Burma is to do business with the military junta. The Heritage

Foundation in their 2007 Index of Economic Freedom ranked Burma as the fifth most repressed

economy in the world (153 out of 157) behind only North Korea, Libya, Cuba and Zimbabwe.6


2006-2007 (April-February), China’s foreign direct investment exceeded $281 million.7

Chinese companies, including whole state-owned enterprises have more than 800 projects in

Burma with a contractual value exceeding US$ 2.1 billion.8





January 2003 - China provided Burma with US$200 million in economic assistance.11

June 2006 – China signed an agreement to loan Burma’s generals $200 in buyers’ credit.12






China is involved in more than 62 hydro, oil & gas, and mining projects in Burma.13 These

projects take place without consultation of local communities, without regard for environmental

concerns and results in destruction of land and loss of livelihood. These projects are

accompanied by increased militarization creating large scale forced labor, forced relocation and

human rights abuses.

Oil & Natural Gas

In March 2007 - China’s PetroChina signed an MOU with SPDC for the sale of 6.5 trillion cubic

feet of gas over the next 30 years to be transported through a new pipeline that will be built

across Burma to deliver the gas to China’s Yunnan province for an annual transit fee of $150

million for the next 30 years, earning the regime US$4.5 billion.14

In April 2006 - China’s National Development and Reform Commission approved an oil pipeline

project from Burma’s Akyab in Arakan State across Northern Burma to Kunming in the Chinese

province of Yunnan, traversing 1,434 miles across Burma.

The construction of the Yadana pipeline in Burma over the previous decade resulted in increased

militarization, enormous environment destruction, widespread human rights abuses, forced labor,

forced relocation, and loss of livelihood.15 There is no indication Burma’s junta would not

commit the same atrocities in the construction of additional pipelines across Burma to China.


China is involved in approximately 40 hydropower projects in Burma.16

As of March 2006 – Of the 11 major on-going hydro-power projects in Burma. All contracts

have been awarded to Chinese companies.17

In June 2006 - China’s state-owned Sinohydro Corporation and the Electricity Generating

Authority of Thailand (EGAT) agreed to build a US$1 billion hydropower station on the

Salween River in Burma18, this is the first of 5 dams in this partnership, that would destroy the

homes of hundreds of thousands of ethnic minorities.


China has been involved in at least 5 major mining projects in Burma. The largest, the Tagaung

Taung nickel deposit represents an investment of US$600 million.19

1 Interview by Barron Young Smith of David Steinberg (16 Jan 06) China’s Burma Connections

2 Rand Corporation (1999) China’s Arms Sales: Motivations and Implications

3 Human Rights Watch (16 Oct 02) My Gun Was As Tall As Me: Child Soldiers in Burma available at

4 Implementation of UN General Assembly Resolution 60/251, Human Rights Council Report of Paulo

Sérgio Pinheiro, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, UN Doc.

A/HRC/4/14, 15 March 2006, p. 14, para 54.

5 The Times of India (9 Apr 07) Myanmar ditches India for China in Gas Deal

6 Heritage Foundation (2007) Index of Economic Freedom available at

7 Central Statistics Organization Ministry of National Planning and Economic Development - Offical Myanmar

Government figures for Foreign Investment available at

8 PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs General Administration of Custom (2002) Trade Statistics

9 Time Asia (23 Jan 06) Burma – Going nowhere

10 EIU (2006) Myanmar Country Review

11 Altsean Burma (5 Oct 06) China Gambles on Burma at its Own Peril

12 AP (10 Jun 06) China signs pact to privde Myanmar with US$200 million loan

13 Earthrights International (11 Sep 07) China in Burma: The increasing investment of Chinese multinational

corporations in Burma’s hydropower, oil & gas, and mining sectors available at

14 The Times of India (9 Apr 07) Myanmar ditches India for China in Gas Deal

15 For more information, please see

16 Earthrights International (11 Sep 07) China in Burma: The increasing investment of Chinese multinational

corporations in Burma’s hydropower, oil & gas, and mining sectors available at

17 Kudo, Toshihiro – (July 06) Institute of Developing Economies, Discussion Paper No. 66, Myanmar’s Economic

Relations with China: Can China Support the Myanmar Economy?

18 AP(28 Jun 06) China, Thailand to Build US$1 Billion Hydropower Plant in Burma

19 Earthrights International (11 Sep 07) China in Burma: The increasing investment of Chinese multinational

corporations in Burma’s hydropower, oil & gas, and mining sectors available at

Chinese dilemma over Burma protests
By Michael Bristow
BBC News, Beijing
Buddhist monks pray at Shwedagon pagoda during a protest against the military government on Monday, Sept. 24, 2007
China has kept its distance from the unfolding events in Burma
China, which has become one of Burma's main supporters over recent years, has remained largely silent about the current protests.

Beijing is traditionally reluctant to speak publicly about the internal affairs of other countries.

But, despite this, there are signs that Chinese politicians are anxious to help stabilise the political situation in Burma.

They perhaps do not want to tarnish China's image ahead of next year's Beijing Olympics by appearing to support any military crackdown in Burma.

Officially, China is playing down its ability to influence events in Burma.

"China always adopts a policy of non-interference," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu at a regular press briefing.

It is in China's long-term business interests to make sure its neighbour is stable

"As Myanmar's (Burma's) neighbour, China hopes to see stability and economic development in Myanmar," she added.

"The stability of Myanmar serves the interest of Myanmar itself and the interests of the international community."

But China's ties with the military junta ruling Burma go deep, and include expanding trade links, the sale of military hardware and diplomatic support.

Energy corridor

"In the last decade or two, with the improving economic situation in China and the increasing isolation of Burma, China has become increasingly important to the regime," said a spokesman for the Asian Human Rights Commission, based in Hong Kong.

The relationship between Burma and China is mainly based on trade. Burma, which has very little industry itself, imports manufactured goods from China.

"If you walk around the streets in Burma, particularly in the north, the overwhelming majority of manufactured goods are Chinese made," said the commission spokesman, who regularly visits Burma.

That trade is reflected in official Chinese figures, which show that exports from China to Burma were up by 50% in the first seven months of this year. They were worth $964m (£479m).

A monk shouts through a loudspeaker in Rangoon on 24 September 2007
Beijing does not want to be associated with any crackdown

Burma mainly exports raw materials, such as timber and gems, to China.

According to research published a few days ago by EarthRights International, 26 Chinese multinational firms were involved in 62 major projects in Burma over the last decade.

These include the construction of oil and gas pipelines stretching 2,380km (1,479 miles) from Burma's Arakan coast to China's Yunnan Province.

The rights group, based in the United States and South East Asia, says this is to help China import oil and gas from the Middle East, Africa and South America.

Official Chinese figures say total imports from Burma amounted to just $146m in the first seven months of this year.

But others doubt the accuracy of these figures. Rights group Global Witness estimated timber exports to China alone were worth $350m in 2005 - most of it illegally exported.

China also sells Burma military hardware, according to the Asian Human Rights Commission.

And Beijing used its veto in the United Nations' Security Council in January to block criticism of Burma's military junta.

'Restore stability'

But despite these deep links, China has shown signs of promoting reform in Burma over recent months.

Tang Jiaxuan (r) meets Burmese Foreign Minister U Nyan Win on 13 September 2007
Earlier this month China urged Burma to maintain stability

In June this year it hosted low-profile talks in Beijing between representatives from the US and Burma.

And earlier this month, senior Chinese diplomat Tang Jiaxuan had some advice for visiting Burmese Foreign Minister U Nyan Win.

"China whole-heartedly hopes that Myanmar (Burma) will push forward a democracy process that is appropriate for the country," he said, according to state-run Xinhua news agency.

Tang, who acts as a foreign policy adviser, said China "hoped Myanmar would restore internal stability as soon as possible, properly handle issues and actively promote national reconciliation". 

China is perhaps wary of backing a regime that might order a violent crackdown of protesters ahead of next year's Beijing Olympics.

Beijing is extremely sensitive to criticism about any of its foreign policies before the event is held. They do not want anything to spoil the games.

Chinese officials have already tried to limit criticism of Beijing's support for Sudan by backing a UN plan that aims to bring peace to the African country's troubled Darfur region.

And, as the Asian Human Rights Commission spokesman said, it is in China's long-term business interests to make sure its neighbour is stable.


And, as the Asian Human Rights Commission spokesman said, it is in China's long-term business interests to make sure its neighbor is stable.

By CHARLES HUTZLER, Associated Press Writer Tue Sep 25, 6:03 PM ET

BEIJING - China has gently urged Myanmar's military rulers to ease the strife that has seen tens of thousands take to the streets in protest, diplomats said Tuesday, even as Beijing said publicly it would stick to a hands-off approach toward its neighbor.

China has quietly shifted gears, the diplomats said, jettisoning its noninterventionist line for behind-the-scenes diplomacy. A senior Chinese official asked junta envoys this month to reconcile with opposition democratic forces. And China arranged a low-key meeting in Beijing between Myanmar and State Department envoys to discuss the release of the leading opposition figure.

For a country that has been Myanmar's staunchest diplomatic protector, largest trading partner and a leading investor, the shift is crucial. Asian and Western diplomats in Beijing and Southeast Asia said China's influence in Myanmar is second to none and could be decisive in restraining the junta from a violent confrontation with protesters.

"China has been working to convey the concerns of the international community to the Burmese government," a Western diplomat in Beijing said on condition of anonymity, citing policy. "But it could definitely do more to apply pressure."

Diplomats and experts cautioned that China's communist leaders may not be willing to push harder. Myanmar's junta has resisted Western economic sanctions and appeals from Southeast Asian neighbors and the United Nations. China has deftly filled the diplomatic and economic vacuum, eyeing Myanmar as a strategic path to the Indian Ocean, investing in its teak forests, gas and mineral fields and picking up an ally in the junta.

Myanmar has about 19 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, only about 0.3 percent of the world's total reserves, according to BP's Statistical Review of World Energy at the end of 2006. Although Myanmar doesn't currently export gas to China, its supply could potentially help feed a rapidly growing Chinese economy hungry for energy.

State-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. has taken a stake in a Bay of Bengal gas field in Myanmar, while China National Petroleum Corp. is reportedly looking at building a pipeline network.

Myanmar "was a vassal state of China's for centuries, and it's fast reverting to that status," said Sean Turnell, an economist and expert on the country at Australia's Macquarie University.

Beijing protected Myanmar, also known as Burma, from scrutiny and sanction in the U.N. Security Council earlier this year. On Tuesday, two officials — one from the Communist Party's international affairs office, the other from the Foreign Ministry — said China would stay out of Myanmar's affairs.

But Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu tempered the pledge with an appeal for calm. "We hope Myanmar and its people will take proper actions to resolve the issue," Jiang told reporters in Beijing.

China's political and economic interests in Myanmar are spurring it to act, diplomats and experts said. With an Olympics in Beijing next year already bringing China heightened scrutiny, Chinese leaders are likely loath to be associated with another repressive, unpopular regime.

Criticism from foreign governments and international activist groups already have caused Beijing to pare back lending to Zimbabwe and put pressure on Sudan to accept a U.N. peacekeeping force for Darfur.

Democracy campaigners in Myanmar took note of the success of the Darfur activists, who warned the games would be tarnished as the "Genocide Olympics" if Beijing did not act, said Phelim Kyne, a Hong Kong-based researcher with Human Rights Watch.

"China has made some significant concessions recently on its links to Sudan, but it hasn't gone that far on its links with Burma," said Kyne. "If things heat up on the border, that's not going to look good for China in the lead up to the Olympics at all."

Beijing's dual approach — saying one thing in public while waging quiet diplomacy — has also characterized its policy shifts on Sudan and in persuading North Korea to join disarmament negotiations, the diplomats said.

In June, Beijing hosted two days of talks between junta envoys and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Eric John. The State Department and U.S. Embassy declined to disclose details. Diplomats from other Western embassies said among the topics was relaxing house arrest for Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Myanmar's democratic opposition.

As protests against the junta began gathering momentum, the Chinese government's senior diplomat told visiting Myanmar leaders to seek a peaceful resolution.

"China, as a friendly neighbor of Myanmar, sincerely hoped Myanmar would restore internal stability as soon as possible, properly handle issues and actively promote national reconciliation," China's official Xinhua News Agency paraphrased State Councilor Tang Jiaxuan as telling junta leader Gen. Than Shwe and Foreign Affairs Minister U Nyan Win.

In May, Beijing telegraphed its frustration with Myanmar's rulers. The Foreign Ministry briefly posted on its Web site a critical account of the junta's decision to move the capital from Yangon to Naypyidaw, a remote site with a shoddy airport and no cell phone service.

China has a sizable presence in Myanmar, constructing dams and laying a road that is supposed to stretch from the Chinese border across Myanmar to its shore.

China became Myanmar's No. 1 trading partner in 2005, with trade heavily lopsided in China's favor topping $1.7 billion, according to Turnell. China's Commerce Ministry says the value rose 20 percent last year and jumped nearly 40 percent in the first seven months this year compared to the same period in 2006.

UNSC asks Burma's Neighbour to use influence on Myanmar
Saturday, October 06, 2007 06:35 [IST]


United Nations: The US and several other key members of the UN Security Council have urged India, China and ASEAN nations to use their influence on the neighbouring Myanmar to start an all-inclusive reconciliation process which could lead to a democratic set up replacing the 45-year old military regime.

But the 15-member Council itself was deadlocked when it met on Friday, with the US and Britain pressing for sending a strong message to back the efforts of the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and China asserting that the pro-democracy protests and strong government action to deal with them were an internal matter of Myanmar.

China clashed with the US and Britain when it rejected the suggestion that the Council consider imposing sanction to back up the efforts being made by the Secretary General and his envoy Ibrahim Gambari.

The situation in Myanmar posed no threat to the international peace and security, Chinese Ambassador Wang Guangya told the US and Britain during a debate that followed a briefing by Gambari who has just returned after meeting head of military junta General Than Shwe and detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Pressure, Wang warned, would not help resolve the problem and might lead to mistrust and confrontation.

The debate in the Council was held in the backdrop of Than offering talks with Suu Kyi with several conditions attached which her party has virtually rejected.

Talking to reporters, Gambari said Suu Kyi is interested in a dialogue and stressed that both sides have strong misgivings about each other.
China's crucial role in Burma crisis

By Jonathan Marcus
Diplomatic correspondent, BBC News, New York
This year's session of the UN General Assembly has been overshadowed by the worsening political crisis in Burma.

It figured prominently in the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon's opening speech.

US President George Bush announced a tightening of US economic sanctions and a ministerial meeting involving the Americans and the 27 European Union countries called for UN Security Council action.

An informal gathering of the Security Council ensued.

It heard a briefing on the crisis from Ban Ki-moon's special representative or envoy, Ibrahim Gambari, just before he left for the region, urgently despatched by the secretary general, in the hope that he can get into Burma and speak to all sides.

But apart from registering concern and displeasure it is hard to see what practical impact these steps will have.

Chinese influence

The US and the EU have long imposed a variety of sanctions against Burma's military regime but, paradoxically, this means that they have relatively few levers to pull to influence Rangoon.

The countries that matter more to Burma are India and Russia; both of whom have trading relations with the military regime.

Russia even plans to sell Burma a nuclear research reactor.

But it is Burma's biggest neighbour, China, that plays the most crucial role, and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council it can help to limit the relative isolation that the Rangoon regime faces.


Both China and Russia, for that matter, vetoed a UN Security Council resolution last January that was critical of Burma's rulers.

China has key strategic interests in the stability of Burma and accordingly strong ties with Rangoon.

This has prompted the Indian government to seek stronger ties of its own with Burma's military regime in order to counter-balance China's growing influence.

Energy resources

It is Burma's energy resources - oil and off-shore gas fields - that make it such an attractive partner for Russian, Chinese, Indian and even South Korean firms.

The scramble for Burma's energy resources make it almost impossible to isolate the regime.

Indeed, over time, as US and European ties to Burma have declined, those of China, Russia and India have increased.

China, then, is very much the key player; but Beijing faces conflicting pressures.

It has to match its energy and strategic interests - access to the Indian Ocean for example - with its desire for stability and its concern for its own reputation abroad, especially with the Beijing Olympics fast approaching.

Wednesday's informal Security Council meeting served in part to gauge the Beijing government's current position.

China's UN ambassador, Wang Guangya, reaffirmed China's predictable position that this crisis was not a threat to international peace and that sanctions would not be helpful.

Held accountable

Formal action is one thing. But might China's concern with regional stability encourage Beijing to whisper some tough words in the Burmese leadership's ear?

That is clearly what Western diplomats are hoping for.

In the short-term, sanctions may not have a great impact on Burma's rulers.

But efforts are underway to impress upon them that there could be long-term consequences if the crisis spirals out of control.

The British ambassador to the UN, John Sawers, echoing a comment from the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, issued a blunt warning to Burma's generals, noting, as he put it, that "the age of impunity is dead".

This is an explicit threat to the country's military rulers that they will ultimately be held accountable for their actions.

China, Africa, and Oil

 Esther Pan

Updated: January 26, 2007

As global demand for energy continues to rise, major players like the United States, European Union (EU), and Japan are facing a new competitor in the race to secure long-term energy supplies: China. With its 2006 GDP growth hitting 10.7 percent, China is intent on getting the resources needed to sustain its soaring economy, and is taking its quest to lock down sources of oil and other necessary raw materials across the globe. With the Middle East mired in long-term instability, China has turned toward another major oil producing region whose risks and challenges have caused it to be overlooked by much of the rest of the world: Africa.
How extensive are China's oil interests in Africa?
China's voracious demand for energy to feed its booming economy has led it to seek oil supplies from African countries including Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says China accounted for 40 percent of total growth in global demand for oil in the last four years; in 2003, it surpassed Japan as the world's second-largest oil consumer, after the United States. In the first ten months of 2005, Chinese official sources say, Chinese companies invested a total of $175 million in African countries, primarily on oil exploration projects and infrastructure. On January 9, state-owned Chinese energy company CNOOC Ltd. announced it would buy a 45 percent stake in an offshore oil field in Nigeria for $2.27 billion. China already has a significant presence in many African countries, notably Sudan: China takes 64 percent of Sudan's oil exports. "China is very deeply engaged in exploiting Africa's oil resources," says Elizabeth Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director for Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Which African countries are major oil producers?
They include:
What's driving China's presence in African oil markets?
China's booming economy, which has averaged 9 percent growth per year for the last two decades, requires massive levels of natural resources to sustain its growth. Once the largest oil exporter in Asia, China became a net importer of oil in 1993. By 2045, China is projected to depend on imported oil for 45 percent of its energy needs. The country needs to lock in supplies from relatively low-cost African or Middle Eastern sources, experts say. But after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent upheaval throughout the Middle East, China is actively trying to diversify its supply lines away from Middle Eastern crude. Experts say China has adopted an aid-for-oil strategy that has resulted in increasing supplies of oil from African countries.
Experts say China has adopted an aid-for-oil strategy that has resulted in increasing supplies of oil from African countries.
How is China's foreign policy affected by its search for energy resources?
The need to find resources is now the driving component in Chinese foreign policy, David Zweig and Bi Jianhai write in an article, "China's Global Hunt for Energy," in the September/October 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs. China's manufacturing sector has created enormous demand for aluminum, copper, nickel, iron ore, and oil. Zweig and Bi write that China "has been able to adapt its foreign policy to its domestic development strategy" to an unprecedented level by encouraging state-controlled companies to seek out exploration and supply contracts with countries that produce oil, gas, and other resources. At the same time, Beijing aggressively courts the governments of those countries with diplomacy, trade deals, debt forgiveness, and aid packages. The strategy is working: China has gained access to key resources around the world, from gold in Bolivia and coal in the Philippines to copper in Chile and natural gas in Australia. And, of course, oil from Africa. "The interesting thing to me is that China's foreign policy has gotten sophisticated enough to accomplish these goals," says David Kang, a visiting professor of East Asia Studies at Stanford University.
What characterizes the current relationship between China and African countries?
Trade and economic activity. Sino-African trade grew by 700 percent during the 1990s, and the 2000 China-Africa Forum in Beijing set off a new era of trade cooperation and investment that is producing notable results. From 2002 to 2003, trade between China and Africa doubled to $18.5 billion, and then nearly doubled again in the first ten months of 2005, jumping 39 percent to $32.17 billion. Most of the growth was due to increased Chinese imports of oil from Sudan and other African nations. China's foreign direct investment in Africa represented $900 million of the continent's $15 billion total in 2004. China is now the continent's third most-important trading partner, behind the United States and France, and ahead of Britain.

Experts say Chinese companies see Africa as both an excellent market for their low-cost consumer goods, and a burgeoning economic opportunity as more countries privatize their industries and open their economies to foreign investment. Some textile manufacturers, for example, are reportedly investing in African factories as a way to get around U.S. and European quotas on Chinese textiles. "China is very pragmatic about this," Kang says. "It's cutting deals with governments all over the world."

How is China building its relationship with Africa?
With integrated packages of aid that lead to business opportunities and market share for Chinese companies. "One of the interesting things about doing business with China these days is that it's a full-on supplier," Economy says. "They will come in and provide everything that surrounds the development of the country." In Angola, which currently exports 25 percent of its oil production to China, Beijing has secured a major stake in future oil production with a $2 billion package of loans and aid that includes funds for Chinese companies to build railroads, schools, roads, hospitals, bridges, and offices; lay a fiber-optic network; and train Angolan telecommunications workers. Economy says China is following a very traditional path established by Europe, Japan, and the United States: offering poor countries comprehensive and exploitative trade deals combined with aid. For example, Japan after World War II paid $5 billion in war reparations to South Korea, Taiwan, and China in the form of export credits for Japanese goods and loans to be used for Japanese construction and other services, Kang says.
Is there a link between oil production and arms sales?
Selling arms to African countries helps China cement relationships with African leaders and helps offset the costs of buying oil from them. China doesn't have the same human rights concerns as the United States and European countries, experts say, so it will sell military hardware and weapons to nearly anyone. Indeed, Beijing sees Africa as a growth market for its military hardware. China's active exploration of oil sources in Africa also leads to a need to ensure security around them, experts say, which has led Beijing to send Chinese military trainers to help their African counterparts. In return, China gains important African allies in the United Nations—including Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Nigeria—for its political goals, including preventing Taiwanese independence and diverting attention from its own human rights record. A report, "China's Arms Sales: Motivations and Implications" by Daniel Byman and Roger Cliff for the RAND Corporation, says China's government exerts strong central control over its arms exports and uses them as a foreign policy tool.
Which African countries has China sold weapons to?
Between 1955 and 1977, Le Monde reports, China sold $142 million worth of military equipment to Africa, and the pace of sales has picked up significantly since then. The Congressional Research Service reports China's arms sales to Africa made up 10 percent of all conventional arms transfers to the continent between 1996 and 2003. They include:
What is China's policy toward human rights?
It is officially termed "non-interference in domestic affairs." Chinese leaders say human rights are relative, and each country should be allowed their own definition of them and timetable for reaching them. "Let's not forget, this is an authoritarian state itself," Kang says. Economy says the Chinese perspective is that, unlike the United States, they don't mix business with politics. In fact, China has argued that attempts by foreign nations to discuss democracy and human rights violate the rights of a sovereign country. Some experts say China's approach is not significantly different from how any other country pursues its interests. "The United States is highly selective about who we're moral about," Kang says. "We support Pakistan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia—huge human-rights violators—because we have other strategic interests. China's not unique in cutting deals with bad governments and providing them arms."
"China's not unique in cutting deals with bad governments and providing them arms," Kang says.
Has China had a positive impact on Africa?
Economy says many Africans are concerned over how China operates in Africa, accusing Chinese companies of underbidding local firms and not hiring Africans. International observers say the way China does business—particularly its willingness to pay bribes and attach no conditions to aid money—undermines local efforts to increase transparency and good governance and international efforts at macroeconomic reform by institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

On the other hand, Africa registered 5.2 percent economic growth in 2005, its highest level ever, in part because of Chinese investment. African nations are enthusiastic that Chinese demand has pushed up oil prices, says Princeton Lyman, adjunct senior fellow for Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. The roads, bridges, and dams built by Chinese firms are low cost, good quality, and completed in a fraction of the time such projects usually take in Africa, experts say. The UN-supervised China-Africa Business Council, based in China, encourages much-needed trade and development with the continent. In 2004, China contributed 1,500 peacekeepers to UN missions across Africa, including Liberia. It has undertaken or contributed to construction projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, Zambia, in addition to the countries named above. It has cancelled $10 billion in bilateral debt from African countries, sends doctors to treat Africans across the continent, and hosts thousands of African workers and students in Chinese universities and training centers. Critics say these projects are meant to build goodwill for later investment opportunities or stockpile international support for contentious political issues. Lyman says China's interest in Africa has both positive and negative effects. "It's good for the continent because it brings in a new actor who's willing to invest, but it's bad for Africa if it turns countries away from the hard work of political and economic reform," he says.

Overall, experts say, China's involvement could likely jump-start change on the continent. "This is Africa's internal problem," Kang says. "How do you build infrastructure without outside investment? And how do you have a stable government with no resources?" The roads and schools built by Chinese companies didn't exist before, so their presence is an improvement. And the infrastructure improvements help African countries secure other loans and investment opportunities, contributing to an atmosphere of development that may one day change the continent -- a welcome, even if unintended, result of China's quest to secure global energy resources.