The yuan continues marching south

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By the amount of Indian faces that pass between those of the rounder lowland Burmese across the streets of Yangon and other cities in Myanmar’s southern coastal cities, it is easy to sense why locals feel so connected to their giant neighbour to the west. Under British rule, Indian labourers and soldiers were ferried over to the then gateway of Southeast Asia, living and working under the laws of the same empire.

By Justin Calderon

Although cultural crossroads are still walked today and historical ties have engendered a genial bond, economic influence has become but residual. Trade volumes have dramatically waned since the days when the countries were held closely together by the imperial glue of the Raj, and reigning influence has been usurped by the now unified economic might of China.

Up until September 2012, border trade between Myanmar and China measured $2.4 billion, with 70 per cent coming across the Yunnan-Myanmar border. Trade with India is but a trickle in comparison. According to the latest statistics compiled by the Indian embassy in Myanmar, border trade between the two countries amounted to just $12.8 million in the 2010-2011 period.

Nowhere more can China’s growing economic clout be felt in the country than in Mandalay, where upscale coffee shops buzz with turgid rhythm of Mandarin. Markets in Mandalay, Myanmar’s ancient capital, are filled with Chinese-made appliances, clothes and cosmetics. Ethnic Chinese families have called the city of the upper Irrawaddy home for generations, and dialects from Yunnan are as common as those from Myanmar’s equally diverse ethnic groups.

Historically a wayward patchwork of recalcitrant tribes, Yunnan has kowtowed to edicts of Beijing, where the corridors of power have enforced Mandarin and developed urban centers into well-oiled economies with infrastructure to support mass tourism of the Chinese variety.

Through this sturdy conduit, border trade has increased approximately one third in 2012 compared to the previous year. Trade coming through the Yunnan-Myanmar border accounts for 30 per cent of total trade, which measured $5.05 billion in 2012.

China is currently Myanmar’s largest trading partner, followed by Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and, finally, India. Of Myanmar’s total border trade, China contributed to 88 per cent of the overall $3.36 billion in 2012.

India’s tenuous economic influence on the so-called “last frontier” must be viewed through the lenses of New Delhi’s influence on its northeastern hinterlands. Though both far-flung demographically and geographically, Yunnan has been made to submit to the autocratic dictates of Beijing to unite towards growth, while northeastern India moves to the beat of the country’s clunky and noisy democracy, which has allowed rebel groups to dig in strongholds to call for autonomy.

New Delhi’s own restrictions to take a heavy hand to the region have resulted in years of economic neglect, making it one of the least developed and ethnically fractured regions in the world. While cotton yarn, automotive parts, soya beans and pharmaceuticals still move from India’s heartland to Myanmar through this border, the route is often filled with dangerous encounters by rebel groups who arbitrarily stake out the few roads that link the porous border together.

Policy in New Delhi will have to be rectified to push for more development in these restive lands to get closer to Myanmar. But in doing so they will also meet up with their increasingly belligerent neighbor to the north.

Myanmar has become visibly nervous over their growing dependence on China trade. It may surprise some to hear that they aren’t they only ones.

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Reading Time: 2 minutes

By the amount of Indian faces that pass between those of the rounder lowland Burmese across the streets of Yangon and other cities in Myanmar’s southern coastal cities, it is easy to sense why locals feel so connected to their giant neighbour to the west. Under British rule, Indian labourers and soldiers were ferried over to the then gateway of Southeast Asia, living and working under the laws of the same empire.

Reading Time: 2 minutes

By the amount of Indian faces that pass between those of the rounder lowland Burmese across the streets of Yangon and other cities in Myanmar’s southern coastal cities, it is easy to sense why locals feel so connected to their giant neighbour to the west. Under British rule, Indian labourers and soldiers were ferried over to the then gateway of Southeast Asia, living and working under the laws of the same empire.

By Justin Calderon

Although cultural crossroads are still walked today and historical ties have engendered a genial bond, economic influence has become but residual. Trade volumes have dramatically waned since the days when the countries were held closely together by the imperial glue of the Raj, and reigning influence has been usurped by the now unified economic might of China.

Up until September 2012, border trade between Myanmar and China measured $2.4 billion, with 70 per cent coming across the Yunnan-Myanmar border. Trade with India is but a trickle in comparison. According to the latest statistics compiled by the Indian embassy in Myanmar, border trade between the two countries amounted to just $12.8 million in the 2010-2011 period.

Nowhere more can China’s growing economic clout be felt in the country than in Mandalay, where upscale coffee shops buzz with turgid rhythm of Mandarin. Markets in Mandalay, Myanmar’s ancient capital, are filled with Chinese-made appliances, clothes and cosmetics. Ethnic Chinese families have called the city of the upper Irrawaddy home for generations, and dialects from Yunnan are as common as those from Myanmar’s equally diverse ethnic groups.

Historically a wayward patchwork of recalcitrant tribes, Yunnan has kowtowed to edicts of Beijing, where the corridors of power have enforced Mandarin and developed urban centers into well-oiled economies with infrastructure to support mass tourism of the Chinese variety.

Through this sturdy conduit, border trade has increased approximately one third in 2012 compared to the previous year. Trade coming through the Yunnan-Myanmar border accounts for 30 per cent of total trade, which measured $5.05 billion in 2012.

China is currently Myanmar’s largest trading partner, followed by Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and, finally, India. Of Myanmar’s total border trade, China contributed to 88 per cent of the overall $3.36 billion in 2012.

India’s tenuous economic influence on the so-called “last frontier” must be viewed through the lenses of New Delhi’s influence on its northeastern hinterlands. Though both far-flung demographically and geographically, Yunnan has been made to submit to the autocratic dictates of Beijing to unite towards growth, while northeastern India moves to the beat of the country’s clunky and noisy democracy, which has allowed rebel groups to dig in strongholds to call for autonomy.

New Delhi’s own restrictions to take a heavy hand to the region have resulted in years of economic neglect, making it one of the least developed and ethnically fractured regions in the world. While cotton yarn, automotive parts, soya beans and pharmaceuticals still move from India’s heartland to Myanmar through this border, the route is often filled with dangerous encounters by rebel groups who arbitrarily stake out the few roads that link the porous border together.

Policy in New Delhi will have to be rectified to push for more development in these restive lands to get closer to Myanmar. But in doing so they will also meet up with their increasingly belligerent neighbor to the north.

Myanmar has become visibly nervous over their growing dependence on China trade. It may surprise some to hear that they aren’t they only ones.

Do you like this post?
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