Aung San Suu Kyi.jpg
State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi (C) looks on as she and members of the Union Peace Dialogue Joint Committee (UPDJC) attend a meeting in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 15 August 2016.
Photograph: EPA/HEIN HTET

Foreign minister and de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi met with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday, the first of a four-day visit that comes at a critical juncture in relations between the neighbouring nations.

Analysts said Suu Kyi's second trip outside of Myanmar since the activist-turned-politician's National League for Democracy (NLD) party came to power this year will be a test of her diplomatic skills.

"The stakes are very high," wrote analyst Yun Sun in a commentary for the Washington-based Transnational Institute. "The outcome of Aung San Suu Kyi’s meetings could well come to define Myanmar-China relations for many years to come."

Her acceptance of an invitation from Li marked another milestone in Suu Kyi's tricky transition - from a Nobel prize-winning icon of democracy to a pragmatic national politician willing to overlook China's backing of the regime that held her under house arrest for 15 years.

Myanmar held its first openly contested elections in 2015 after a half century of military rule, and the former pariah state has seen international sanctions lifted.

Suu Kyi needs China's help with her August 31 peace and national reconciliation talks between ethnic armed groups, the government and the military.

In exchange for cooperation on border issues, China will likely seek support for its hotly disputed claims to most of the South China Sea. Suu Kyi is expected to hold talks with President Xi Jinping later this week.

Chinese state media reported that one of the main topics in the meeting between Suu Kyi and Li was Beijing's desire for a fresh start for the long-stalled, Chinese-backed Myitsone hydroelectric dam project.

The two agreed to set up a commission to resolve issues surrounding the dam, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The 6,000-megawatt plant was to be built in the Kachin State, at the start of the Irrawaddy river that flows the length of the country to the rice-growing delta region.

The dam was opposed by Kachin people, conservationists, farmers who depend on the Irrawaddy for irrigation and Suu Kyi herself.

Myanmar scrapped it in 2011, prompting protest from China. Ninety per cent of the electricty generated would have gone to China, allowing the country to reduce its dependency on dirty coal-fired plants.

Related stories

Latest news

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.

President wants to recall "politically appointed ambassadors", can't do it without gov't

President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic said that many politically appointed Croatian ambassadors were not carrying out state policies but that she could not replace them without the government to appoint career diplomats who would fight for Croatia's interests.

Izetbegovic hopes ICJ will confirm Serbia's responsibility for genocide

The Bosniak member of the tripartite presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bakir Izetbegovic, on Monday rejected criticism stirred up by the announcement that the International Court of Justice (ICJ) would be requested to review its judgement made after Bosnia sued Serbia for genocide.

British lawmakers locked in heated debate over Trump's state visit

Allowing US President Donald Trump to visit Britain would be akin to "pimping out the Queen," one British lawmaker said Monday during a heated debate in British parliament over two petitions concerning the US leader's future state visit.

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's sharp-tongued ambassador to the UN, dies

Russia's long-time ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, died in New York on Monday, following a career that spanned four decades and saw Russia emerge from the Soviet Union and experience many turbulent events in its relations with the West.

French police raid National Front over European Parliament payments

France's far-right National Front Monday said that investigators had searched its offices in relation to allegations that it misused European Parliament funds.

Unhappy Presidents' Day: Trump still manoeuvring after Sweden comment

Donald Trump used his first Presidents' Day in office to continue trying to talk his way out of comments implying a terrorist attack in Sweden that never happened.

Croatia supports Kosovo's territorial integrity - Grabar-Kitarovic

Croatia's President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic on Monday expressed the support to Kosovo's territorial integrity and Euro-Atlantic aspirations during her talks with the visiting Kosovo Foreign Minister Enver Hoxhaj.

Petrov rules out early parliamentary election

Parliament Speaker and Bridge party leader Bozo Petrov on Monday dismissed speculation about a reshuffle of the parliamentary majority, saying an early election was likelier, but that right now he did not see "such a scenario."

First local elections in 20 years to be held in Nepal on May 14

Nepal's government announced the dates for forthcoming local elections on Monday, nearly 20 years after polls were last held for municipalities and village councils in the country.

US Defence Secretary: We are not in Iraq to seize Iraqi oil

US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said on Monday that the United States does not intend to seize Iraqi oil, in reference to comments made by President Donald Trump last month.

Bryan Adams to play Zagreb

Canadian rock star Bryan Adams, who has sold more than 100 million albums in his 40-year-long career, will perform in Zagreb on November 9, according to his website and Facebook account.