Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, visits China

by Tom Gallagher

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In other news, Aung San Suu Kyi, arrived in China yesterday for a five day visit. This is Suu Kyi's first trip to China. This is an important moment for the future of Burma, or commonly known as Myanmar, as the country will have general elections in the fall of this year. Suu Kyi's pro-Democracy party, National League for Democracy, is expected to win big.
Burma is critically important to China today and into the future. China is attempting to build some 26 dams in Burma in order to export hydroelectricity back into China, among other far-reaching initiatives. But creeping fear by the Burmese military generals about China's pervasive presence in Burma has caused these generals to slow down China's march through Burma. This has angered China.
As a way to hedge their bets in advance of the fall elections, China is engaging Suu Kyi, even though the Burma constitution was written to prevent her from becoming the elected leader of the county -- anyone who marries a foreigner or who has children with foreign passports. Suu Kyi married Michael Aris (1946-1999), who was born in Cuba and lived much of his life in the U.K, and they had two children together.
Last evening I attended a talk hosted by Allan Dodds Frank, an award-winning investigative reporter, and the Overseas Press Club in New York City, by Rena Pederson, an accomplished, award-winning journalist and author, who interviewed Suu Kyi and just published a book that grew out of her interview with Suu Kyi in 2003, The Burma Spring: Aung San Suu Kri and the New Struggle for the Soul of a Nation (Pegasus Books, 2015).  Pederson was the Editorial Page Editor for 16 years at the Dallas Morning News, and served on the Pulitzer Prize Board, and later in the U.S. State Department.
Pederson describes this point in the history of Burma as a "hinge" moment. Suu Kyi's trip to China is going to be very interesting to watch in order to see how the Chinese government respond to Suu Kyi and also as to how Suu Kyi will respond to China. Will the near future be a real spring time for Burma, or will it be just a thaw?  Is Suu Kyi going to move from the idealist pro-democracy leader into a pragmatic politician? 
This predominantly Buddhist country has not been friendly to Christians, who have been targeted by the military leaders.
After her talk, I chatted with Pederson, who had very good things to say about Charles Maung Bo, the archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar. Pope Francis just made Bo a cardinal in February 2015. Catholics make up 1.6% of the 51 million people. Bo has been outspoken on behalf of all minorities, including Muslims and Christians, and against religious extremism by radical Buddhist monks. Read more on Bo here and here.
The Christian Science Monitor has a good story on Suu Kyi's trip to China and can be found here.

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