Myanmar has improved security at an industrial zone where Chinese companies are concentrated, as Beijing becomes deeply embroiled in one of its neighbour's worst episodes of political instability, said a top Chinese envoy to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).
Deng Xijun, China's ambassador to Asean, told Chinese and local media on Wednesday that the Chinese embassy in Yangon had urged local police to take "concrete measures" to ensure the safety of Chinese companies and employees following the vandalism and torching of dozens of Chinese-owned garment factories in the latest round of anti-China sentiment, reports South China Morning Post.
According to a statement released by China's foreign ministry's Asia department on WeChat on Thursday night, Deng said, "the Myanmar side has deployed additional police and firefighting forces to the areas involved to improve the stability."
"China will continue to urge the Myanmar side to take practical measures to stop all acts of violence, investigate and punish the perpetrators in accordance with the law, and ensure the safety of the lives and property of Chinese enterprises and personnel in Myanmar."
China has made significant investments in Myanmar, but it has maintained that the crisis is Myanmar's internal matter and that Asean should play a key role in resolving the country's crisis, citing its non-interference policy.
While the Chinese foreign ministry did not say how much money was lost on Sunday, Chinese media claimed that 32 Chinese-owned factories in Yangon's Hlaingthaya industrial zone were destroyed.
Two Chinese employees were injured, according to media reports, and property damage and loss totalled 240 million yuan (US$37.8 million).
It was not the first time Chinese investments were targeted in political turmoil in Myanmar, but the latest violence has drawn attention to the thorny dilemma Beijing is increasingly facing.
Sitting between China and India and facing the Indian Ocean, Myanmar is seen by Beijing as a stepping stone to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean. The China-funded Kyaukpyu port in western Myanmar hosts one end of a massive oil and natural gas pipeline network that runs to Kunming in southwest China's Yunnan province and could provide Beijing with a direct link to oil supplies from the Middle East.
In an interview with the news website Guancha.cn, Liu Zongyi, an expert at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, said Beijing had reason to be cautious about anti-China sentiment in Myanmar, which he warned could extend to the wider Southeast Asia region as China's bitter rivalry with the US continued to escalate.
"In line with the US' vision of a 're-pivot' to the Indo-Pacific, some forces will take the opportunity to create an anti-China wave in Southeast Asia," Liu said. "In this regard, we should be prepared in our diplomacy with neighbouring countries."