A serious diplomatic fight has broken out between China and the United States in Myanmar. The spat has descended into name-calling as the two countries level allegations against each other. The root of the problem is growing Chinese assertiveness over its claimed rights in the South China Sea.
The US Navy has already increased its deployments in this water body. This has irked the Chinese as they see it as an attempt by the superpower to interfere in the affairs of its neighbourhood. The imposition of a new law in Hong Kong curtailing freedoms and the mishandling of the Coronavirus has further antagonized the western powers.
To fuel the fight further, the US Embassy in Myanmar went a step ahead and accused the communist nation of indulging in actions that form a "larger pattern to undermine the sovereignty of its neighbors."
The statement, released on Saturday said: "This is how modern sovereignty is often lost – not through dramatic, overt action, but through a cascade of smaller ones that lead to its slow erosion over time."
What the statement clearly implied was the fact that the huge amount of money that the Chinese government is putting in Myanmar to improve infrastructure could become a weapon to increase its influence over its neighboring country's government.
Such scenarios have already emerged in some African and South Asian countries. After Sri Lanka found itself unable to repay its debts to China, they had to hand over a 99-year lease for the facility to China, the latter having built it in the first place. Such acts, impinging on the sovereignty of countries, must have preyed on the minds of those who wrote this statement.
China has now hit back with its embassy in Myanmar responding angrily to the above-mentioned comments. It accuses US of doing "disgusting things" and claimed it has shown its "selfish, hypocritical, contemptible, and ugly face."
"The US should first look in the mirror to see whether it still looks like a major country now," the statement from Chinese embassy further suggested.
This battle over Myanmar will continue to play out in the days to come. The government of Myanmar has faced several challenges. Earlier, it was criticised for not letting democracy flourish and keeping Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi in house arrest. Things got better after reforms were introduced and Suu Kyi released. Her party even formed a government in Myanmar.
But new problems arose when disturbances emerged among Rohingya Muslims. The treatment of this ethnic and religious minority was brutal and violation of basic human rights, detractors claimed. Suu Kyi faced severe criticism for her silence on this issue. This attitude of western powers is expected to push the country formerly known as Burma further into China's embrace.