These analysts believe China should mediate between the Kachin and Naypyidaw, to remind Myanmar of Beijing's influence and to facilitate the stabilization of the border area. Meanwhile, they argue that China should also support the border ethnic groups in their struggle against Naypyidaw by pressuring the Burmese military to relax its attacks and keeping the border open to allow the movement of timber, jade, and other natural resources. (The smuggling of drugs is an unwanted, but unavoidable byproduct of the porous border.) According to these analysts, assisting the minority groups will restore China's leverage over Naypyidaw and push Myanmar to respect China's national interests. After all, in their view, since Myanmar is throwing itself into the arms of the West, China has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
In private conversations and events, analysts affiliated with the Foreign Ministry have opposed this view. They cite China's long-standing policy of non-interference in other country's internal affairs, and its well-established bilateral friendships with countries like Myanmar, to argue that inciting ethnic struggle will further alienate Naypyidaw. Many of these analysts believe that the "democracy frenzy," as one of the most prominent Myanmar experts called it in an off-the-record discussion, that is currently hurting China's interests will eventually fade. Naypyidaw will have to return to Bejing for support, otherwise the country will descend into chaos. After all, they argue, the two countries had decades of friendship -- and China today remains Myanmar's largest trading partner and investor.
For their part, the ethnic groups welcome China's participation. According to a source in the Kachin Independence Army, the untrustworthy, "chauvinistic" Burmese will repudiate any agreement unless it is backed by a global power. With the United States more focused on helping Naypyidaw than siding with the restive ethnic groups, the Kachin and the Wa have hoped China would be their strongest ally. After dispatching several delegations to Washington over the past few years, the Kachin groups have said that they are disappointed with the lack of interest from the United States. And according to several local Chinese officials, the Wa have given up any hope of altering Washington's perception of them as "drug lords" and "arms dealers." Understanding Beijing's fear about a Myanmar distancing itself from China, the Kachin and the Wa argue that China should support their struggle for a political settlement and autonomy. This will make China look bad, especially given the similar requests from Tibetans and Uyghurs for autonomy, which China suppresses. But politics makes strange bedfellows, and China supporting a restive ethnic group in its struggles against an uncaring central government is hardly the most ironic.