At a pan Africa-China conference held in Beijing last year, mainly to discuss trade and investment and jointly sponsored by Disney Inc and Time-Warner, the Chinese Government, embarrassed by its $US1.4 trillion trade surplus, announced it would embark on an international shopping and investment adventure to spend some of this money.

Among investments then already in place was a Chinese fully-funded pulp mill in southern Myanmar (Burma). This mill, now in production, is to help meet China’s huge demand for wood fibre. It is claimed that the mill sources only bamboo for production and the first 90 000 tonnes recently was shipped to eastern China. Myanmar apparently has significant areas of natural bamboo. In 1993 this writer, after entering Myanmar from China, soon after reported in Australia on logging of monsoon forests by the Chinese in the northeast of the country.

China’s relationship with the military junta in Myanmar is interesting. The recent unrest and street demonstrations harshly put down by the Myanmar Government, which continues to hold democracy and human rights campaigner Aung Sang Suu Ky under house arrest, resulted in condemnation abroad and the cancellation of many tours to the country.

China’s foreign policy, in its relationship with other states, advocates non-interference in the internal affairs of those states and it does not expect any behavior otherwise towards China from those states in these “bilateral, friendly relationships”.

Recently the UN special envoy on Myanmar, Mr Ibrahim Gambari, in a visit to Beijing to discuss with the Chinese Government the Myanmar crackdown on the protestors and the international response, was urged by Beijing to take a conciliatory approach.

The Chinese Government said that the international community should be patient with Myanmar and allow the junta to resolve its problems internally and without pressure from abroad. It described the Myanmar Government as an old friend of China. Friends needed, indeed, when the question of investment and access to much-needed forest resources is at stake.

One gold medal too early for Beijing

The granting by the US Government of a Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama last month, and his Holiness’ meeting with President Bush, caused outrage in Beijing. The Chinese Government expressed anger at the “gross interference in its internal affairs” and said the meeting with the Dalai Lama “seriously violated the norms of international relations”.

China’s Foreign Ministry reiterated that Tibet was an “inalienable part of China” and China opposed the use of both the meeting and award as a mechanism to promote Tibetan independence.

In colorful terms for such a stern subject the Dalai Lama was described by the ministry spokesman, Mr Liu Jianchao, as a “political refugee engaged in secessionist activities under the camouflage of religion” and that use of the Dalai Lama to interfere in China’s internal affairs was “doomed to failure”.

From a correspondent in Beijing

Among investments then already in place was a Chinese fully-funded pulp mill in southern Myanmar (Burma). This mill, now in production, is to help meet China’s huge demand for wood fibre. It is claimed that the mill sources only bamboo for production and the first 90 000 tonnes recently was shipped to eastern China. Myanmar apparently has significant areas of natural bamboo. In 1993 this writer, after entering Myanmar from China, soon after reported in Australia on logging of monsoon forests by the Chinese in the northeast of the country.