Skip to main content

page search

Library Burma and superpower rivalries in the Asia-Pacific

Burma and superpower rivalries in the Asia-Pacific

Burma and superpower rivalries in the Asia-Pacific

Resource information

Date of publication
March 2002
Resource Language
ISBN / Resource ID

The Western democracies have declared that their strong stances against the current military regime in Burma reflect principled stands against the 1988 massacres of pro-democracy demonstrators, the failure of the regime to recognize the results of the 1990 general elections (which resulted in a landslide victory for the main opposition parties), and the regime?s continuing human rights abuses. Yet it can be argued that such a strong and sustained position would have been less likely had the Cold War not ended and Burma?s importance in the global competition between the superpowers not significantly waned. Lacking any pressing strategic or military reason to cultivate Burma, and with few direct political or economic interests at stake, countries like the United States and the United Kingdom can afford to isolate the Rangoon regime and impose upon it pariah status. If this was indeed the calculation made in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it is possible that the changes that have occurred in the strategic environment since then may prompt a reconsideration of these policies.

Burma lies where South, Southeast, and East Asia meet; there the dominant cultures of these three subregions compete for influence. It lies also across the ?fault lines? between three major civilisations?Hindu, Buddhist, and Confucian.1 At critical times in the past, Burma has been a cockpit for rivalry between superpowers. Today, in the fluid strategic environment of the early twenty-first century, its important position is once again attracting attention from analysts, officials, and military planners. Already, Burma?s close relationship with China and the development of the Burmese armed forces have reminded South and Southeast Asian countries, at least, of Burma?s geostrategic importance and prompted a markedly different approach from that of the West..." The PDF version (222K) has a map and a 4-page presentation of Burma's geostrategic position not contained in the html version.

Share on RLBI navigator

Authors and Publishers

Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s)

Andrew Selth

Geographical focus