The New York Times Issues Venomous Editorial on China-Myanmar Relations

The New York Times recently released a scathing editorial that was directed against China. The article in question asserted that China was engaging in the “large scale plunder” of Myanmar’s treasured natural resources and in “blatant acts of theft” as the result of “crony capitalism” between the countries. The article outlines how China is taking Myanmar’s mahogany resources and threatening the area’s wildlife with “extinction.” The article even blamed China for the death of one protester who was killed by the Myanmar police. The article, written under the title of “The Plunder of Myanmar” accused China of using predatory pressure tactics to achieve its economic aims.

The whole article reads like a call to arms against China’s trade with Myanmar. It paints China as a villain and Myanmar as a naive child that has played into China’s grasp. U.S. elites are acting as though they are heroes who are on a mission to rescue Myanmar and enforce justice upon the evil overlord, China.

It’s interesting to note that The New York Times hasn’t tried to suggest that China is engaging in some form of “neo-colonialism” with Myanmar; why have they stayed their pens from issuing this charge? For a long time, public opinion in both the U.S. and Europe has held that China has been out to plunder and extort the resources of developing nations. We know for a fact that the ancestors of modern Europeans and Americans also, for a long time, traded in slaves and sucked both the treasures and the blood from the various colonies they established abroad. Perhaps, then, they see China as being just as ruthless as their own ancestors were?

There are, without any doubt, some traders in Myanmar who are engaging in illicit activities, but the Chinese government’s position has always been that it is strongly opposed to any form of destructive exploitation and the smuggling and trafficking of endangered wildlife species. The Chinese government has also been cracking down harshly on all areas of the illegal narcotics trade. A tiny percentage of Chinese people in Myanmar engages in illicit acts, but The New York Times has ignored this and decided instead to cast all Chinese as bad people. It has deliberately misrepresented China in the hopes of using its influence to stir up animosity towards Chinese people living in Myanmar society.

The New York Times article focused upon issues of human rights, but does it honestly think that the world is blind to the effects of the United States’ activities in Afghanistan, Iraq and other developing nations? Has anyone at The New York Times ever published a human rights article in response to the civilian deaths caused by U.S. activities in those countries? How about Myanmar? It was once a prosperous nation, but U.S. sanctions against it fueled the country’s degradation into a state with few human rights, and even less in the way of basic, material needs for its people.

The New York Times team should reveal both the historical and the present relationship between the West and developing nations for what it is, and not gloss over the facts. Colonial rule of the West over developing nations lasted for centuries, and many of those old colonies are still penniless today. The West of today adopts a piecemeal attitude towards developing nations now; businesses come in, open mines, take what is valuable, then leave the country in a mess while it tries to come to grips with the deformities of the Western economic model.

Some Westerners still hold onto the old mindset that sees helping the developing nations as a sort of “white man’s burden.” The New York Times exemplifies this in its attitude of superiority, and in how it tries to advise Myanmar to “take a step back, away from China.” Its true intent is to drive a wedge between the Myanmar and Chinese peoples.

Many of China’s large-scale investment strategies in Myanmar, such as the Letpadaung copper mine, have met with fierce resistance. Aung Sun Suu Kyi and other politicians have regrets about this, but the Western media have been lending their power to deleterious effect in these matters. The West lacks the financial power to engage in large scale investments in Myanmar, and now it also wants to try to derail China’s investment plans. While Myanmar deserves to be modernized and brought up to date, many in the West would rather see it remain impoverished and backwards. This really is inhumane.

In the interests of developing profitable trade relations between Myanmar and China, both countries need to focus on their mutual aspirations for the future while being vigilant against the provocations of the West. China is willing to work with Myanmar to help fortify peace and prosperity within the country, because doing so is within China’s best interests. China has no interest in letting itself be surrounded by countries that have abandoned the path to modernization. Moreover, The New York Times, with its angle on how China is commanding Myanmar like a “pawn,” needs to be seen not as an entity that is concerned with social progress amid China’s neighbors, but more as a force that is concerned with how to manipulate those neighbors into taking down China.

As China’s neighbor, Myanmar needs to avoid looking at China through the lens given to it by other external powers. Instead, it needs to maintain its independent soul, and see The New York Times’ ploys for the cunning devices that they are.

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