Burmese regime plays 'American' card to get more concessions from 'comrade state' China

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By Willy Lam,

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s visit to Burma this week could hasten the pace of reform by the nominally civilian regime under President Thein Sein. However, it is improbable that Sein and other military strongmen who control the pariah state will allow political forces led by dissidents such as Nobel prizewinner Aung San Suu Kyi to affect their tight grip on power.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Burma's President Thein Sein at the President's Office in Naypyitaw on Dec. 1. Reuters

Diplomatic analysts in Burma and Beijing say that while the Sein administration has made cosmetic reforms, such as releasing political prisoners, its main motive is to persuade the United States to lift trade and other sanctions on the strategically located country.

Moreover, Sein seems to be playing the “American card” to wangle more concessions out of Beijing, which remains Burma’s predominant backer.

Earlier this week, Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, the Burmese armed forces commander, was in Beijing to reassure the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership that ties between the quasi-allies remained solid. On Nov. 29, Hlaing met with Vice President Xi Jinping, who is also vice chairman of the policy-setting CCP Central Military Commission.

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