Chinese authorities urged the Myanmar military council’s ministry of commerce this week to reopen border crossings previously closed to control the spread of Covid-19, according to sources active in the border trade.
Several gates on the border between northern Shan State’s Muse District and Yunnan Province in China have opened and closed periodically since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of five checkpoints in Muse’s 105 Mile Trade Zone reopened in late November 2022, with four gates remaining closed.
“The Chinese government desperately wants to reopen all the border gates, but our side is hesitant,” a border trader from Muse told Myanmar Now. “China shut down all borders when the pandemic was happening in Myanmar but they want to reopen the gates now that their country is the one facing it.”
According to the trader, Chinese authorities met with officials from the Myanmar junta’s commerce ministry on Tuesday and entrusted them with the decision regarding whether to reopen the border crossings.
Yunnan provincial authorities issued an order on Monday to reopen their own border checkpoints within the following week in order to revive commerce between the two countries while reducing the number of illegal border crossings.
The Yunnan authorities’ statement said that trucks as well as small vehicles would be allowed to pass through the border gates, and that they were “preparing eagerly” to resume cross-border trade.
According to the Muse-based border trader, reopening the border gates may allow for a smoother, uninterrupted flow of goods and more job opportunities.
“People from our side are also requesting that the border checkpoints not be closed again after reopening this time. They kept opening and closing randomly after the first reopening,” he said.
Beginning in late November 2022, the people of China mounted widespread strikes to protest severe pandemic-related restrictions on travel and business activities. The cities of Ruili, Jiegao, and Wanding on the border with Muse District were among the areas where these restrictions were subsequently lifted.
China is Myanmar’s largest commercial partner, with overland trade goods flowing mostly through border gates in the towns of Muse, Chin Shwe Haw, and Kengtung in Shan State, as well as the towns of Lweje and Kanpaikti in Kachin State.
According to the military’s commerce ministry, goods worth US$1.9 billion moved through these border crossings between April and December of 2022.
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