Re-interpreting China’s Non-Intervention Policy towards Myanmar: Leverage, Interests and Intervention

Photo source: Myanmar Times

Citation: Hak Yin Li and Yongnian Zheng, “Re-interpreting China’s non-intervention policy towards Myanmar: Leverage, interests and intervention”, Journal of Contemporary China 18, no. 61 (2009): 617-637.

Abstract: China’s non-intervention policy has long been criticized for prolonging the rule of many authoritarian regimes. Myanmar has become one of the classic examples. As China is expected to become a responsible great power, her behavioral patterns have aroused many concerns. This paper aims to re-interpret China’s non-intervention policy. While explaining various constraints on China’s capability to intervene in the Myanmar government, it shows how China is making efforts to seek a new intervention policy in dealing with countries like Myanmar. It argues that China’s insistence on a non-intervention policy does not mean that China does not want to influence other countries such as Myanmar. To assess Chinese leverage and its nonintervention policy toward Myanmar as well as to supplement the current limited academic discussion on Sino–Myanmar relations, in this paper we first examine Chinese leverage in Myanmar through Burmese local politics, such as the power struggle between the Central government and local rebel governments. Second, we disaggregate the Chinese interests in Myanmar into different levels (regional, geo-strategic and international) and discuss how these interests affect China’s non-intervention policy. Third, we argue that China has indeed tried to intervene in Myanmar politics, but in a softer manner that contrasts with the traditional Western hard interventions, such as economic sanctions and military interference.