China steps into Kachin conflict | China Commentary |

Map above: Location of the "Kachin State"



China steps into Kachin conflict
By Brendan O'Reilly 

The Chinese government is currently hosting peace talks between Myanmar's government and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). The KIA expects China "will take a role as a witness and mediate during the meeting". [1] These negotiations are the latest in a series that have been held in recent years by China. Fighting between the KIA and Myanmar's military erupted in 2011 after a 17-year truce. 

China is increasingly involved in the conflict raging in northern Myanmar's Kachin state. The many inherent contradictions of Myanmar, also known as Burma, a resource rich, impoverished, and politically liberalizing land locked country in destabilizing ethnic conflict, have vital implications for the Chinese leadership. 

Added to these dynamics are Myanmar's strategic position on the

Asian landmass and the recent overtures of Western powers to the country's new leadership. China's deepening unusual involvement in another country's internal struggle is a sign of just how important Myanmar is to China's foreign policy goals. 

Fighting in Kachin State has intensified in recent weeks as government forces have used heavy weaponry and moved closer to KIA strongholds. The KIA is the last of Myanmar's many ethnic militias to face continued military action from the central government. The other major rebel groups - such as the Karen National Union and Shan State Army - have hammered out ceasefire agreements with the new government in recent years. 

That Myanmar is facing intense ethnic fighting is unfortunately typical for the country. Last year saw tens of thousands of minority Muslim Rohingyas flee Myanmar after widespread ethnic riots that pitted the Muslims Rohingyas against Buddhist Rakhines. The recently stalled conflict between the Karen National Union and the central government began in 1949, and is the world's longest-running separatist war.