"The current government learned a lot from the Arab Spring. It became fearful that a similar uprising could occur in Burma -- they want to be safe and
sound, especially Than Shwe," he said. Thein Sein was Than Shwe's handpicked successor.
"Thein Sein is a lifesaver for Than Shwe and has long been one of his favorites. The military needs a good exit strategy; otherwise it will face
repercussions if political reform does happen."
Chinese statements have praised the reforms in Burma and the détente between Washington and Naypyidaw, but it is an open secret that Beijing is worried
about investment projects being endangered by the will of the Burmese people. U.S. engagement in Burma is unlikely to assuage these concerns.
In early 2012, Wanbao Mining, a subsidiary of arms manufacturer Norinco, one of China's largest state-owned enterprises, took over operations at Monywa
copper mine in a joint venture with wholly owned military conglomerate Burma Economics Holding Corp. Norinco released a statement saying the project would
assist with "strengthening the strategic reserves of copper resources in our country, and enhancing our influence in Burma."
Three months later, the mine project had become a lightning rod of anti-Chinese sentiment among Burmese for several reasons: alleged forced relocations,
destruction of an ancient Buddhist temple, degradation of an important watershed and resentment toward Chinese acquisition of Burmese resources.
Small protests in June gradually gained momentum as monks and farmers were joined by environmental and social activists in demanding cancellation of the
mine's billion-dollar expansion project.
In late November, Suu Kyi told reporters that the contracts had been signed and that "if unilaterally canceled, compensation must be made. If Burma wants
to stand up as a commensurate country within the international community, it must keep its promises."
Days after her statement, police used tear gas and water cannons to break up protests at Monywa, after which she pledged to meet with both sides and assist
Even more important to China's strategic planning than Monywa is the massive energy corridor being built between the deep-water port at Kyaukpyu and
Kunming. The gas pipeline will run from Burma's coast to Kunming and onward to Guangxi and Guizhou with a total length of 1,700 miles. The oil pipeline
will terminate at a new refinery in Kunming. The corridor's key strategic value is the reduction of Chinese oil imports through the Strait of Malacca by
one-third. Beijing views the U.S. naval presence in the strait as a possible threat to its energy security.
Burma has tried to assure Beijing that its investments are safe. Thein Sein, speaking at the 8th China-ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in
China last September, said that there was room for expansion of economic ties with China while touting recent foreign investment legislation, but China