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There is more nuance to China’s Myanmar policy than is discussed in the public discourse. China was a critical factor in Myanmar’s reformist direction in the late 2000s, which saw some political liberalisation and civilianisation of the Myanmar state. Beijing has a complex relationship with its troubled neighbour, based on its dynamics with the military regime, the now-deposed National League of Democracy (NLD) government under Aung San Suu Kyi. The internal political developments in Myanmar which have unravelled since the coup d’etat in February 2021 and its acceleration to state failure has immense regional implications on many fronts. The implications include a refugee and humanitarian crisis; the spread of organised transnational criminal networks and illicit methamphetamine markets; transmission of pathogenic diseases; hunger; poverty; and environmental degradation.

This event marks the launch of the Lau China Institute's latest policy paper, ‘China and the Myanmar Dilemma’, authored by Anna Tan, which analyses the nexus of political economy between the two countries, and what Beijing’s stance towards Myanmar means for both countries and the wider region. It also assesses the risks posed by the Myanmar crisis on China’s political and commercial objectives in the region under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and what concerns this presents for major donor countries within the UN Security Council. The paper offers policy recommendations for China and international actors, especially for the largest donor governments (e.g. Germany, the UK and Japan) to Myanmar and international aid agencies operating within the country.

The launch, in collaboration between the Lau China Institute and the Department of War Studies, will involve a panel discussion about the political situation in Myanmar and what this could mean for China and the region, and for major donor governments across the globe, including the UK.

Click here to read or download the policy paper.

About the speakers

Chair: Vincent Ni, China Affairs Correspondent, The Guardian

Vincent is currently the China Affairs correspondent for The Guardian in London, covering the world's most populous nation and its evolving place in Asia and in the world.

Prior to the Guardian, Vincent was a Senior Journalist at the BBC between April 2014 and April 2021. Whilst at the BBC, he also launched BBC Asia Brief, an internal forum that broadens conversations about East and Southeast Asia and their relationship with the rest of the world for BBC editors and reporters. His work has appeared on the BBC’s flagship programs such as Newshour, Dateline London, and From Our Own Correspondent. Vincent is a graduate of Oxford University. In 2018, he was selected as one of the 16 Yale World Fellows. In June 2021, he presented the hour-long BBC world service radio documentary When Kisssinger went to China. In 2019, he launched the Asia Matters podcast.

Andrew Heyn, CMG OBE, former British Consul-General to Hong Kong & Macau

Andrew Heyn CMG OBE was a UK diplomat for over 30 years. He served as British Consul-General in Hong Kong from 2016-20 and British Ambassador to Myanmar from 2009-13. He experienced at first hand the democratic reforms in Myanmar from 2010 onwards and the beginnings of the Rohingya crisis. He was in Hong Kong for the 2019 protest movement and the subsequent imposition of the new National Security Law by China in 2020. He served as Deputy British Ambassador in Dublin from 2005-09 covering the St Andrews Agreement. He is now a regular speaker and media expert commentator on Myanmar, Hong Kong and wider foreign policy issues.

He was awarded a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 2020 and an Order of British Empire (OBE) in 2013. He is an Honorary Fellow of St Hugh's College, Oxford and an Honorary Professor of Practice at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queens University, Belfast.

Anna Tan, PhD Student and Project Coordinator, Lau China Institute

Doctoral Student and Project Coordinator at the Lau China Institute at King's College London. Her research is focused on the impact of U.S.-China relations on the dichotomy of peacebuilding and democratisation in South/Southeast Asia, during Xi Jinping Era. She graduated from King's for her MSc in Global Affairs (Overall Distinction) where she specialised in China, South Asia and Middle Eastern studies. Anna has formerly worked for the American Red Cross and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on multi-donor humanitarian aid projects and on matters surrounding youth policy, human rights and peacebuilding from 2016 to 2018. She was particularly involved with the American Red Cross' aid strategy preparation for the Rohingya Crisis across Myanmar and Bangladesh. She was also a former Programme Coordinator for the Conflict, Security and Development Conference in 2020, and was a former mentee of Visiting Prof. the Hon. Mike Rann, the former Australian High Commissioner to the UK, during her time at The Policy Institute. Her academic research has enabled her to engage with senior policymakers and stakeholders from across international organisations, think-tanks and governments, including the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Her peer-reviewed publications have been featured across the Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs, Department of War Studies and the School of Security Studies.

At this event

Anna Tan

PhD student