Roll Back China’s Influence

NAYPYIDAW/BERLIN (Own report) – The German Foreign Ministry is strengthening Berlin’s anti-China position in Southeast Asia, through a new training program for employees of several of Myanmar’s ministries. If one seeks to “roll back” the influence of the People’s Republic of China, Myanmar is “a very interesting partner,” affirmed a specialist on Southeast Asia at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin. The German government is expanding cooperation with that country accordingly, and in addition to broadening cooperation on political projects, seeks particularly to enhance its economic influence. The EU recently lifted the economic sanctions imposed on Myanmar due also to German pressure. The German Ministry of the Economy is supporting new business deals. Critics’ indications that the economic opening of the country serves western enterprises and the local elite in the entourage of its military rulers, have as little effect as the human rights organizations’ protests, accusing the government in Naypyidaw of tolerating pogroms against the Muslim minority. They have been demanding – to no avail – that the EU take appropriate measures.

German Training Program

Over the next few months, special training measures will be undertaken for fifteen employees of various ministries in Myanmar, including those in the country’s foreign ministry, according to an announcement by the German Foreign Ministry. This will be organized around next year’s Myanmar presidency of the Southeast Asian ASEAN alliance. The purpose is to prepare the Myanmar functionaries, explained the German embassy in Yangon.[1] In a initial step, Berlin’s ambassador opened an “orientation workshop” March 6. In May, “a two-week exchange of experiences” will follow, organized in Jakarta together with the Indonesian Foreign Ministry and the ASEAN secretariat. In June and July, the training program concludes with 2-weeks of training at the Foreign Service Academy at the German Foreign Ministry and in Brussels, the ambassador announced.

Years of Preparation

In its efforts to gain influence on the Myanmarian ministerial bureaucracy, Berlin could draw on the years of preparation by the CSU-affiliated Hanns Seidel Foundation. This foundation was active in Myanmar already back in 1996, becoming the first German foundation to officially open a branch office in the country’s largest city Yangon, on October 23, 2012. One of the Seidel Foundation’s first activities was to support Myanmar’s integration into the international ASEAN alliance, in the latter half of the 1990s. This was in German interests, because ASEAN facilitated its overwhelming majority of pro-western countries, to jointly pursue their interests – against China. This is right in line with the training seminar, organized by the Seidel Foundation in December 2012 for the Myanmarian Foreign Ministry.[6] It helped prepare the ministerial bureaucracy for the ASEAN presidency – now with the participation of the foreign ministry.

Business Offensive

Supplementary to its growing political activities, the German government is now promoting the expansion of economic relations to Myanmar – as a basis for exerting influence in the future. April 22, the EU – due also to German pressure – lifted its economic sanctions on Myanmar, which had been imposed by Brussels in an effort to isolate the country, as long as it continued to refuse direct western interference. Since some time, the German Ministry of the Economy has been supporting trips of delegations to that country and suggested the possibility of furnishing Hermes warranties. Only weapons exports are, for the time being, still under restriction. This business offensive – which has greatly enhanced the amount of German exports to Myanmar – is usually justified with the allegation that this poverty-stricken country seriously needs to be invigorated. However, even western critics point out that the current economic opening is only benefitting the western companies and local elites, under the domination of the military, while the major portion of the population is receiving absolutely no benefit at all.

Full article: Roll Back China’s Influence (German Foreign Policy)

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