What’s China’s Next Move on the Rohingya Crisis?


HRC—Religious and racial conflicts lie at the center of Rohingya crisis. The majority of Rohingya people in Myanmar believe in Muslims, an identity that could be used to label them as threats to the nation. Myanmar is a Buddhist country, which makes the Rohingyas pagans in the eyes of prominent political and religious figures. They are at their most vulnerable: stripped of their citizenship, their homes burned down, their lives threatened, and their voice muted.

Again, we see the cycle of history repeating. By making the Jews an enemy of the people, Adolf Hitler transferred public dissatisfaction, and the social pressure that went with it, to one specific group. The unity of Germany was reached at the cost of the blood of the Jewish people. The Myanmar government is doing the very same thing. Apart from Germany, the doings of Myanmar officials are also reminiscent of the 2009 Ürümqi riots in China, which centered around the religious and racial differences between Muslim Uyghurs and Han Chinese.

It therefore makes sense that China will respond in favor of the Myanmar government, especially given the similar political standing the two countries hold. Internationally speaking, few countries in the western world are satisfied with China’s policies with the Uyghurs, even today. It would also make a lot of sense to stand behind a neighboring friend who’s caught up in the same religious disputes. Because if Myanmar was ever successfully intervened, China can easily be the next.

If we look at the works that China has done in the last ten years, it is clear that China aggressively tries to assimilate the Uyghurs into Chinese society, including building railroads at national debt, relocating Han Chinese in Xinjiang, and opening up reeducation camps for the Uyghurs. The effectiveness of these measures remains to be seen, but one thing is certain, that the Chinese government chooses governmental control over the uncertainty of a diverse, open nation.

That said, China will not blindly side with the Myanmar regime. Should the time come when their actions go so far that they cross the line—which seems inevitable—China will not sit idly by. This is mainly because China needs to uphold its reputation as global peacekeeper, which demands China not step aside in the event of a major human right violation.

However, the degree of China’s participation is going to be largely bound by its principle of nonintervention—choosing not to infringe on the sovereignty of other nations. It can be anticipated that China will share experiences on religious and racial assimilation with the Myanmar government, while protesting a significant intervention in the nation’s domestic affairs.

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