China Fails to Condemn Myanmar Military Coup Despite International Concern

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has failed to condemn the military coup in Myanmar, despite other nations expressing grave concerns over the action and arrests of prominent civilian leaders.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin told a daily press briefing in Beijing on Monday: "We hope that all sides in Myanmar will properly handle their differences under the constitutional and legal framework and maintain political and social stability."

The Chinese statement was far softer than those from other foreign nations, who condemned the military for seizing power early on Monday and arresting key figures including de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint.

The military said power has now been transferred to commander in chief Min Aung Hlaing. A state of emergency of one year has been announced, after which the military said power would return to civilian leaders via fresh elections, though experts have expressed skepticism this will happen.

China wields significant influence in Myanmar, and Beijing has tried to maintain close ties with both the military and civilian leadership, though these have been strained by ongoing conflicts with ethnic rebel groups allegedly armed by China.

China is a major investor in the country, particularly in projects related to President Xi Jinping's grand Belt and Road project. Last year, for example, Xi traveled to Myanmar to meet with Kyi to sign agreements related to the China Myanmar Economic Corridor, an infrastructure scheme worth billions of dollars.

Hlaing and his military allies launched their coup after Kyi's National League for Democracy won a landslide victory in the November elections. The new parliament was due to meet this week, effectively cementing the results of the November poll.

Military leaders, who hold 25 percent of parliamentary seats per the national constitution, have claimed the NLD used electoral fraud to win its November landslide. The military also called for the elections to be postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but this demand was rebuffed.

Kyi has called on her supporters to protest against the coup. "The actions of the military are actions to put the country back under a dictatorship," the NLD said in a statement signed with Kyi's name. "I urge people not to accept this, to respond and wholeheartedly to protest against the coup by the military."

With international condemnation of the coup Myanmar's military and Hlaing will likely need Beijing's backing more than ever, particularly if it needs to suppress popular demonstrations against the re-imposition of military rule.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Hlaing earlier this month during a visit to Myanmar, where the two men lauded ties between their two nations and encouraged further cooperation in future.

Hlaing may now have to contend with American actions. Secretary of State Antony Blinken issued a statement late on Sunday calling on military leaders "to release all government officials and civil society leaders and respect the will of the people of Burma as expressed in democratic elections on November 8."

He added: "The United States stands with the people of Burma in their aspirations for democracy, freedom, peace, and development. The military must reverse these actions immediately."

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki issued her own statement on Sunday warning the Biden administration will "take action" if the military does not reverse course.

Myanmar protesters against military coup in Bagkok
People hold up images of Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi while shouting at a protest outside Myanmar's embassy on February 01, 2021 in Bangkok, Thailand. Lauren DeCicca/Getty Images/Getty