The United States' recent decision to pursue a different tack with Burma has been cited by reports to be the reason for the unusual Chinese rebuke of the Burmese over a recent border spat. According to a recent Inter Press Agency article, the recent Chinese-Burmese border bust up may have been compounded by Chinese concerns over its long-time client state's future relations with the U.S.
Some background: This latest Chinese rebuke comes as the United States has moved rather aggressively in courting Burma in the last few weeks. Following Senator Jim Webb's trip to Burma in August, the U.S has announced a shift in its Burma policy, announcing its plan for engagement with the junta's reclusive leaders must be part of a "sustained process of interaction." This move, which has been strongly supported by Burmese opposition, has been quickly followed by a meeting between Kurt Campbell, assistant U.S. secretary of state for Asia, and Burmese health minister U Thaung on the margins of the UN General Assembly last Tuesday. These are the first such high-level talks in more than a decade.
But should such a contention be taken seriously? Consider the realities: the Chinese have benefited from a flurry of trade sanctions imposed on Burma by the West since 1988. Today, 90 percent of investment in Burma still comes from China, and this is unlikely to change any time soon. It is therefore unlikely the Burmese junta would decide on any dramatic switch of allegiance. The Burmese military junta's interest in a dialogue with the U.S. is, according to the same IPS article, motivated by its main concerns -- to have sanctions lifted, for international humanitarian and development assistance to flow into the country, and to attract foreign investment.