(COURTESY OF YE DABO)
The year 2010 marks the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Myanmar. The two countries will hold a series of activities to commemorate the anniversary. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is scheduled to pay an official visit to Myanmar in early June. It will be another landmark visit, which will further enhance mutual political trust, expand economic and trade cooperation, and deepen the traditional friendship between the two countries.
China and Myanmar are friendly neighbors with a common border of more than 2,210 km. The two peoples have made amicable contact since very ancient times. These friendly relations are known well as "Paukphaw (meaning full brothers) Friendship" in Myanmar.
The earliest recorded history of friendly exchanges between China and Myanmar can be traced back to the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), when Myanmar dispatched envoys to China on many occasions.
After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, Myanmar was one of the earliest countries to recognize the New China. On June 8, 1950, diplomatic relations were established between the two countries. In the 1950s, China, Myanmar and India jointly advocated the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, which still guide international relations. In the 1960s, Myanmar became the first neighboring country to settle boundary disputes with China through friendly consultations and negotiations.
The traditional friendship between China and Myanmar has been cemented and carried forward smoothly in the past six decades. In particular, the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai paid nine visits to Myanmar, while Myanmar's leader General Ne Win visited China for 12 times from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Entering into the new century, with the signing of the Joint Statement on the Framework for Future Bilateral Cooperation, the development of friendly and cooperative bilateral relations gained strong momentum and achieved steady progress in every field. China-Myanmar relations are among the most important bilateral relationships of both sides and have brought tangible benefits to the two peoples.
In recent years, bilateral relations have enjoyed sound development with frequent high-level visits and steady growth of political trust. Former Chinese President Jiang Zemin's and then Vice President Hu Jintao's visits to Myanmar—in 2001 and 2000 respectively—laid solid foundations for the further deepening of bilateral ties. The visit to China by Senior General Than Shwe, Chairman of Myanmar's State Peace and Development Council (SPDC), in 2003 was a milestone in both countries' history.
In 2009, Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and Xi Jinping, Vice President of China, paid official visits to Myanmar respectively. At the same time, Myanmar's Prime Minister Thein Sein attended the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2009; Vice Chairman of the SPDC Maung Aye visited China; and First Secretary of the SPDC Ting Aung Myint Oo attended the Sixth China-ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Expo in Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, and hosted the opening ceremony of Myanmar's third Consulate General in China.
Recent years have also witnessed sound development of economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. The bilateral trade volume of 2009 stood at $2.9 billion, an increase of 10.7 percent over the previous year. China has been Myanmar's second largest trade partner for several years successively. In 2009, China ranked the third largest investor in Myanmar, reaching a wide range of sectors including energy, resources, hydropower stations, communications and agriculture.
In terms of infrastructure construction, the main dam of the Yeywa Hydropower Station, the first large-scale project of its type in Myanmar, has been completed with the assistance of the Chinese Government's concessional loans. The Nay Pyi Taw International Convention Center, constructed with the free assistance of the Chinese Government, has been handed over to the Myanmar Government. An oil and gas pipeline project between China and Myanmar has also been started. All of these projects have not only become a driving force for Myanmar's economy, but also created employment opportunities for the Myanmar people. It is mutually beneficial for both sides.
Great achievements have been made in exchanges and cooperation in the areas of culture, education, religion and public health. For instance, Yi Cheng, honorary President of the Buddhist Association of China, accepted a merit reward conferred by Than Shwe in Myanmar's capital city Nay Pyi Taw last year. Myanmar also sent a delegation to China to attend the Second World Buddhist Forum.
Every year, universities from both China and Myanmar exchange nearly 50 students with their sister universities under the two governments' student exchange programs. Chinese and Myanmar art troupes have exchanged visits for years. Traditional Chinese wushu and acrobatics are very popular with Myanmar audiences.
China accords importance to friendly cooperation between the two countries' armed forces. The visit to Myanmar by Chen Bingde, Chief of the General Staff of the People's Liberation Army of China, in March 2009 brought friendly military contacts to a new height.
China and Myanmar have supported each other's national concerns. The Myanmar Government has unswervingly upheld the one-China principle and opposed so-called "Taiwan independence" secessionist activities, while China has always been ready to support Myanmar in efforts to safeguard its state sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as its legitimate rights. In the international arena, China and Myanmar have been engaged in close political dialogue, coordination and collaboration on major global or regional issues of mutual interest.
The year 2010 is crucial for Myanmar as its first general elections in 20 years will be held. It is now pushing forward its "seven-step roadmap" to democracy and striving for the realization of national reconciliation, social stability, economic development and the upgrading of people's living standards.
A stable and healthy China-Myanmar relationship is not only in the fundamental interests of both countries, but also conducive to peace and stability in the region.
The author is the ambassador of the People's Republic of China to the Union of Myanmar