BEIJING (AP) — China closed a border crossing with Myanmar on Friday after fighting in that nation spilled into a Chinese province and damaged buildings.
State broadcaster CCTV said vehicles, a school and other buildings in Yunnan province were damaged by bullets, artillery fire and flames from an exploding gas station in Myanmar. CCTV reported no deaths or injuries in the Chinese town of Jiegao, but the situation inside Myanmar was unclear.
Various ethnic rebel groups based along the countries’ border are fighting Myanmar’s military while seeking autonomy from the central government. The fighting has caused occasional deaths in China, fueled cross-border crime and sent refugees fleeing temporarily into China, where many share ethnic, linguistic and familial links.
China has longstanding ties to Myanmar’s military leaders, who retain much power despite recent democratic reforms. President Xi Jinping visited Myanmar in January but an undercurrent of anti-Chinese sentiment in Myanmar remains. Chinese influence is especially felt in northern regions such as Mandalay, and local resentment has been fed by a population influx and sometimes heavy-handed implementation of Chinese-backed projects that run roughshod over local communities.
For China, Myanmar also offers access to an Indian Ocean import route for the Persian Gulf’s oil and gas and is a bridge to Southeast Asia and beyond for Xi’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to build infrastructure connecting China to Europe and Africa.
Meanwhile, China serves as a no-questions-asked ally to Myanmar, giving it diplomatic cover as the country faces widespread condemnation over its human rights record, including its treatment of Rohingya Muslims.