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China Obtains 99 Year Lease on Myanmar Port After Brokering Regional Ceasefire

China has obtained rights to a Port in Kyaukpyu, Myanmar for 99 years after Beijing negotiated a ceasefire between the Myanmar government and an armed alliance of opposition groups. The Kyaukpyu Port will give China a logistical presence on the Indian Ocean, enabling bypass of the Malacca strait shipping route. Some have said that Beijing supported the opposition group in Myanmar so as to pressure Myanmar’s government.

The past few months’ conflict in Myanmar started with three armed groups in northern Myanmar (the Kachin, the De’ang, and the Shan) banding together to form a “Myanmar Alliance Army.” The group launched attacks against Myanmar’s government forces in the name of “rescuing Chinese people and combating electronic fraud.” The alliance army secured a series of victories against the Myanmar government army, taking some territory.

On January 10th and 11th, China successfully brokered a ceasefire agreement between the two sides. The deal was struck in Kunming City, Yunnan Province, China. As part of the agreement, Beijing demanded that the Myanmar government enter a contract leasing Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu Port to China for 99 years. Having suffered defeats in the field, the Myanmar government had no choice but to cede use of the port.

According to the Aboluo website, Beijing provided support to the Myanmar Alliance Army in the form of advanced weapons, communication equipment, and drones. There were also rumors that Chinese soldiers dressed as members of the alliance army and fought some of the battles against the Myanmar government’s military. Aboluo commentary suggests that China supported the armed opposition in Myanmar not to “stop electronic fraud crime rings in Myanmar” but rather to secure use of the port in Kyaukpyu.

The Kyaukpyu Port is situated on the Indian Ocean; it may well become the best seaport serving the southwest and central regions of China. Its use will significantly reduce China’s dependence on shipping routes through the Strait of Malacca, making it easier for China to import and export to the global market directly via the Indian Ocean.

Beijing proposed a development plan for Kyaukpyu Port as early as 2007 under its “Belt and Road Initiative,” aiming to establish a land-sea transportation network connecting Kyaukpyu to China’s Kunming city via railways and highways. Negotiations between Beijing and Myanmar went on for 12 years. China and Myanmar signed a 50-year lease agreement for the port in 2018, but this agreement fell apart when Myanmar’s current leader Min Aung Hlaing came to power in a 2021 military coup.

Source: Aboluo, January 15, 2024