Foreign Policy (February 17) assessed that the widespread protests against the February 1 military coup in Myanmar have taken on an increasingly anti-Chinese tone, with rallies held outside the Chinese Embassy in Yangon and calls growing for boycotts of Chinese goods and services. Misinformation is spreading, including rumours that Chinese soldiers have infiltrated Myanmar and that Chinese software will be used to set up a Great Firewall. It said the Chinese Ambassador has attempted to dispel these rumours to little effect. Beijing’s public statements in response to the coup have been neutral to mildly critical, with state media describing the coup as a “major cabinet reshuffle,” while the  Chinese Ambassador to Myanmar said that China was “unhappy with the situation.” 
Separately, in a written interview with Burmese media outlets on February 16, China’s Ambassador to Myanmar Chen Hai said political turbulence in the country is “not at all what the Chinese side wishes to see,” adding that Beijing had “no prior knowledge” of the military coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s democratically elected leader, earlier this month. Chen Hai indicated that Beijing supported the Southeast Asian nation’s democratic transition, saying UN Security Council talks earlier this month “reflect the common position of the international community, including China.” He did not condemn the military takeover, saying China hoped that “all parties” would “properly handle the current issues through dialogue and consultation” in order to bring Myanmar politics “back onto a normal track.”

(Comment: China has an interest in Myanmar also because of its rare earth ore deposits. In 2018, China imported 25,800 tons of heavy rare earth ore from Myanmar, which was equal to China’s annual production. According to data from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Geological Survey (USGS) and other institutions, in 2019, China’s rare earth mine production accounted for 62.9 per cent of the world’s total. The U.S. accounted for 12.4 per cent; Australia accounted for 10 per cent, and Myanmar accounted for 10.5 percent.)

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