Fuelling insecurity?: Sino-Myanmar energy cooperation and human security in Myanmar.




Botel, Gabriel

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This thesis examines the relationship between energy, development and human security in Sino-Myanmar relations. Rapid economic growth and increased urbanisation have intensified China’s industrial and domestic energy consumption, drastically increasing demand and overwhelming national supply capacities. Chinese foreign policy has responded by becoming more active in securing and protecting foreign energy resources and allowing Chinese companies more freedom and opportunities for investment abroad. Consequently, Chinese foreign investment and policies have become increasing sources of scrutiny and debate, typically focusing on their (presumed) intentions and the social, economic, environmental and political impacts they have on the rest of the world. Within this debate, a key issue has been China’s engagement with so-called pariah states. China has frequently received substantial international criticism for its unconditional engagement with such countries, often seen as a geopolitical pursuit of strategic national (energy) interests, unconcerned with international opprobrium. In the case of Myanmar, traditional security analyses interpret this as, at best, undermining (Western) international norms and, at worst, posing a direct challenge to international security. However, traditional security analyses rely on state-centric concepts of security, and tend to over-simply Sino-Myanmar relations and the dynamics which inform it. Conversely, implications for human security are overlooked; this is in part because human security remains poorly defined and also because there are questions regarding its utility. However, human security is a critical tool in delineating between state, corporate and ‘civilian’ interests, and how these cleavages shape the security environment and potential for instability in the region. iv This thesis takes a closer look at some of the entrenched and changing security dynamics shaping this Sino-Myanmar energy cooperation, drawing on an extensive literature in human security rarely applied in this context. This includes a brief review of human security and Sino-Myanmar relations, and is grounded in an empirical analysis of Chinese investment in Myanmar’s hydropower and oil and gas sectors. Ultimately, this thesis argues that, while insightful, many traditional interpretations of Sino-Myanmar energy cooperation overlook the security interests of those worst affected. Furthermore, that the worst excesses of Chinese companies in Myanmar are not unique to China, but common across all investors in the regime, Western or otherwise.



energy security, Myanmar, Burma, China, hydropower, human security, energy, security, oil, natural gas