DURING his Myanmar visit, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed a three-phase solution to help settle the Rohingya issue in Rakhine state. The first phase calls for an on-site ceasefire and restoring social stability should be resumed. In the second phase, all parties and the international community should jointly encourage Myanmar and Bangladesh to strengthen communication so as to come up with feasible approaches to the issue through friendly consultation on an equal footing. The third phase centers on developing strategies to address the root cause of the issue.
Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh in the crisis, which is considered a case of “ethnic cleansing” in Western public opinion. The escalation of the crisis has damaged Myanmar’s de facto leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s reputation in the West, impacted Myanmar’s diplomatic environment, and has become a major challenge for the country.
China had taken a low-key approach to the dispute, but Wang’s three-phase proposal has attracted a great deal of attention. Some Western media outlets argue that Wang’s mediation proposal shows China is becoming more active in international diplomacy since the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. Indeed, Beijing has long been active in peripheral diplomacy, which is much more different than Washington’s interventionist style of dealing with crises.
Western interventionist diplomacy is self-centered and often compelling. Aid from the West usually comes appended with political conditions that recipient countries find unacceptable. Some Western states intervene in other countries’ domestic affairs using sanctions or even manipulating a political coup.
Wang’s three-phase proposal isn’t imposing China’s will on Myanmar and Bangladesh. Both Nay Pyi Taw and Dhaka expect Beijing to act as a mediator. Pushing the two countries to meet each other halfway and finding an approach acceptable to both is China’s only goal for the Rohingya issue. Beijing won’t use the Myanmar-Bangladesh dispute for self gain, and Wang’s trip is all about goodwill.
China has seen enhanced comprehensive strength in recent years, and the international community expects Beijing to contribute more to global governance. However, some Western institutions hold a complicated attitude toward China’s endeavor in settling international disputes and promoting regional peace and development. They seem unwilling to support China’s expanding influence.
Having Beijing shoulder more global responsibility conforms to both China’s and the region’s interests, and causes no harm to Western major powers. China has no ambition for expansion, and isn’t interested in establishing a sphere of influence in the region. Beijing’s active diplomacy answers the call of the times. Creating more opportunities for cooperation is China’s intention.
We believe Myanmar and Bangladesh understand Wang’s goodwill. The three-phase proposal had been discussed among the parties concerned before it was put forward. This is a new approach for major powers to intervene in international conflicts. It is a harmonious process of a major power’s deep association with the world.