China has always backed Myanmar and is stepping up efforts to secure the strategically located nation as a major partner in the region
With the International Court of Justice poised to make an initial ruling on January 23 in connection with The Gambia's lawsuit accusing Myanmar of genocide, Chinese President Xi Jinping's Myanmar visit this week can be considered an assurance that China has got Myanmar's back.
In 2017, the Tatmadaw Army conducted violent operations forcing more than 700,000 Rohingyas to flee across the border into Bangladesh. Refugees shared stories of mass murders, rape and destruction of villages by security forces.
As the US urged Myanmar to hold the perpetrators accountable in the face of global uproar, its "trusted friend" China came in to save Myanmar.
China, being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, has been Myanmar's sole powerful voice in defense as accusations of war crimes committed by Myanmar's military grew louder.
Through the crisis, China has backed Myanmar and is stepping up efforts to secure the strategically located nation as a major partner for the region.
A joint statement released on Saturday said China would support Myanmar's approach to the Rohingya crisis and help relocate refugees, while Myanmar reiterated that under an agreement with Bangladesh, it would accept vetted refugees.
If the International Court of Justice rules in favour of The Gambia and tells Myanmar to stop its genocidal acts, will Myanmar accept it when the country claims that no genocide has been committed?
China can come in handy for Myanmar if this case gets passed on to the Security Council. As US directly blames Myanmar of human rights violations, it will vote against the country. However, with China's veto power, Myanmar can be saved from being portrayed as the 21st century mass murderer.
Under his Belt and Road Initiative, the Chinese President signed agreements to develop the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, most notably the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone along the Bay of Bengal coast – a multi-billion-dollar project.
The agreements aim to reinforce the position of Beijing as Myanmar's closest foreign ally while Myanmar continues to face growing Western isolation over its treatment of the Rohingya minority.
According to local media, the two sides signed 33 memoranda of understanding, agreements, exchange letters and protocols – 13 of which were related to infrastructure.
Neither China nor Myanmar disclosed details of the deals. However, the locals are not quite happy with this because the Chinese companies usually bring Chinese workers to construct their projects. In that case Myanmar does not get to create job opportunities for its people.
Then what will the country gain from the deals?
The only probable reason for why Myanmar is accepting such big loans which they know they cannot repay is solely political; it is something none of the country representatives say out loud.
"The Chinese side adheres to non-interference in Myanmar's internal affairs and supports Myanmar in safeguarding national dignity and legitimate rights and interests," said China's Foreign Vice-Minister Luo Zhaohui in a media briefing ahead of Xi's trip.
With Xi's visit to Myanmar, it seems the country is definitely still in the hedging game. With the current support, if not political but economic, from some of the regional powers besides China, only time will tell if Myanmar can restore its international image.