HONG KONG: China, it seems, has not given up hope of restarting its hydroelectric power project at Myitsone in northern Myanmar.
According to a report published in the Asia Times, Beijing is using the proposed Myitsone power project to push for concessions from Myanmar for a much more important project -- the deep sea port at Kyaukphyu on the Bay of Bengal.
This is also not a very popular project with the people of Myanmar, but less than Myitsone, which would have a disastrous impact on ecosystems in northern Myanmar.
The USD 3.6 billion Myitsone project was halted in September 2011 as there were fears at time that going ahead with it would have flooded 600 square kilometers of forest land. The other point left the Government of Myanmar concerned was that after the completion of the project, ninety percent of the electricity generated by was earmarked for export to China.
At the time, then President Thein Sein said any implementation of the project would be "against the wishes of the people (of Myanmar)".
Thousands of people had then demonstrated against the project, which they said would devastate northern Myanmar with little benefit for people in the country.
China, on the other hand, has maintained and is attempting to convince Myanmar that not going ahead with the project will drive down investor confidence and raise concerns about the economic policies being pursued by Myanmar.
Chinese mouthpiece The Global Times reported earlier this month that, "China will keep talking to Myanmar over the stalled dam and try to find a practical way to resume the project based on mutually beneficial cooperation."
Beijing is aware that the project is unpopular among the Myanmar public at large. Any serious effort to have it resumed would inevitably lead to a resumption of anti-Chinese protests in Myanmar, which China can ill-afford given the decline of its influence in the country since 2011.