When U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Burma on Nov. 19, locals lined the streets, waving American flags that a couple years ago could have landed them in jail. “For many years, the U.S. flag meant defiance against the regime,” says Thiha Saw, a newspaper editor in Rangoon, the country’s largest city, where Obama spent six hours. “It meant democracy, freedom, all those good things.”
Two years ago, when China’s Premier Wen Jiabao arrived in the country known officially as Myanmar, there was no such spontaneous outpouring of goodwill from the Burmese people. After all, China may be one of Burma’s top foreign investors, but it was also one of the few nations to support an isolated military government as it brutalized its people. Even as Burmese rely on cheap Chinese imports, there is little love for their giant neighbor to the north.
China’s global outreach has been spurred by…
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