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National League for Democracy (NLD) leader Aung San Suu Kyi arrived in China on 10 June for a debut visit that will cast an intriguing light on Beijing’s attitude towards the democracy champion and Nobel laureate as she bids to take power.
Suu Kyi emerged from Beijing’s main international airport exit wearing a white top and pink sash and surrounded by police and security, before getting into a black sedan, according to an AFP reporter on the scene.
It’s the 69-year-old’s first official visit to Burma’s powerful neighbouring country, as she touches down in China ahead of crunch elections slated for November at which her party is expected to make significant gains, if the vote is free and fair.
Nicholas Farrelly, a Burmese specialist at the Australian National University, said the former political prisoner will not allow China’s historical support for a junta that imprisoned her to cloud her judgement.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is getting on with the business of trying to win an election. She will be utterly pragmatic about what is at stake and cannot afford to indulge undue sentiment,” he told AFP.
“She knows that China will play a mighty role in Myanmar’s future.”
The NLD has said she is expected to meet President Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang, but no detailed itinerary has yet been released by the Chinese authorities.
An official at the airport from Burma’s embassy in China, however, said she would meet Xi on Thursday and would be staying at the Diaoyutai State Guest House.
Chinese Foreign ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei said at a press conference in Beijing that the Chinese government hopes Suu Kyi’s visit will improve bilateral relations and help create a better understanding between the two countries.
Relations have been strained between Naypyidaw and Beijing in recent months over an influx of Kokang refugees onto Chinese territory as the Burmese army tries to thwart the resistance of ethnic militias in northeastern Shan State.
While in Beijing, she will also likely face calls to raise the case of jailed fellow Nobel laureate Chinese writer Liu Xiaobo, sentenced to 11 years in prison in 2009 for circulating a petition calling for democratic reforms, as well as being asked to discuss Chinese mega-projects in Burma such as the Myitsone Dam, which suspended by presidential decree in 2011, due to public protest and environmental concerns.