China launched a military drill near its border with Myanmar aimed at "testing the troops' capabilities in rapid maneuver, precise destruction, vertical blockade, and joint strikes" on Tuesday, the Xinhua News Agency reported. Carried out amid intensive clashes between Myanmar government troops and ethnic armed forces, the exercise has demonstrated China's determination and will to safeguard its border security.
Since the signing of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015, northern Myanmar has never seen a real truce. Long-standing armed conflicts not only harm Myanmar's national harmony, but also severely jeopardize China's strategic interests and border security. Stray bullets were seen falling inside Southwest China's Yunnan Province, causing deaths and injuries to Chinese civilians. The large number of Myanmese residents fleeing to China have disturbed daily life in China's border regions and posed heavy burdens on local governments.
Long-lasting clashes pose severe threats to the interests of both Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw. Myanmar assumes a significant strategic position. It plays not only a key role in the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar economic corridor and the Beijing-proposed One Belt and One Road, but it is also a passageway connecting Southwest China and the Indian Ocean. The Sino-Myanmar oil pipeline is set to begin shortly after sitting empty for two years. The $1.5 billion oil gateway will provide China with an alternative route to the crowded Malacca Straits to import overseas oil to landlocked southwestern provinces.
Apart from alleviating Southwest China's shortage of oil, the project is a boon to Myanmar. Starting at the port of Kyauk Phyu, jointly developed by Beijing and Nay Pyi Taw, the port and the pipeline will create more jobs and bring more investment opportunities to the city. In addition, the project is a cooperation between four countries - China, Myanmar, South Korea and India, with the Myanmese firm the largest stakeholder. Long-standing armed conflicts will for sure negatively affect the project, and jeopardize the long-term strategic interests of both China and Myanmar.
Beijing is willing to cooperate with Nay Pyi Taw to safeguard border security. China supports the Myanmese government's ethnic policies and urges ethnic armed groups to participate in the reconciliation process. A cease-fire is a must for peace talks. China has been playing a role as a constructive mediator, providing venues for peace talks among the parties concerned, and will continue to contribute to Myanmar's national reconciliation process.