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Can China bring peace to Christian parts of Myanmar?

Desperate to carve an economic corridor, the country suspected of funding militias now wants to stop them fighting

Can China bring peace to Christian parts of Myanmar?

Ethnic Chin people hold placards during a protest in Yangon in July 2019 asking for an end to conflict in Chin and Rakhine states between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. (Photo: AFP)

Peace in Myanmar, one of Southeast Asia's most restive nations, has proved elusive for more than 70 years. Dozens of civil wars have raged on and off between the country’s military, known as the Tatmadaw, and various ethnic militias.

The most intense war is in Kachin and Shan states, where a conflict has been raging between the Tatmadaw and the four-militia Northern Alliance since 2011 in areas that have substantial numbers of Christians. This is a resumption of previous conflicts which had, since 1964, been largely settled, although attacks by various militias continued spasmodically.

Help may be at hand from an unexpected source. The four militias seem prepared to talk peace with the military as long as neighboring China is involved.

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While Myanmar’s 50-million-strong population is only officially 8 percent Christian — about four million people — the Christian population is largely concentrated in ethnic states far from the Bamar center.

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