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A New Look Towards Myanmar

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton heads to Myanmar. We look at that nation’s steps toward democracy and rising strategic importance.

An exterior view shows Myanmar's Parliament buildings where the second regular session is being held in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. Parliament approved Thursday a law guaranteeing the right to protest, one of a series of reforms under the new elected government. (AP)

An exterior view shows Myanmar's Parliament buildings where the second regular session is being held in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. Parliament approved Thursday a law guaranteeing the right to protest, one of a series of reforms under the new elected government. (AP)

Hillary Clinton heads into Burma – Myanmar – tomorrow, the first US Secretary of State to make the visit in more than half a century. That’s a long time.

Burma was the dreamland of the British Empire. Rangoon. Mandalay. Its wilds have for ages stood between what are now two booming powers: India and China.

Now China would like to see Myanmar as its California – a second coast of pipelines, highways, and access to the sea. A break in Myanmar’s military dictatorship has given the US a chance to say hello.

This hour, On Point: Southeast Asia’s new strategic crossroads – Myanmar.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Andrew Quinn, foreign policy correspondent for Reuters.

Thant Myint-U, author of Where China Meets India: Burma and the New Crossroads of Asia.

David Steinberg, professor of foreign service at Georgetown University and author of Modern China-Myanmar Relations: Dilemmas of Mutual Dependence.

From Tom’s Reading List

Washington Post “The Obama administration is taking a foreign policy gamble by sending Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on a historic trip to the isolated Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar this week.”

Foreign Policy “After 20 years without a parliament and democratic process, its new leaders are now showing a surprising impatience with the status quo and are changing the way this country is ruled. Western policymakers should sit up and take notice of these reforms — and, most importantly, respond.”

Foreign Affairs “By contrast, the boom in China’s Yunnan Province has boosted Myanmar’s economy and brought the country closer to China, which covets a pathway to the Bay of Bengal, an important shipping hub.”

Playlist

We played two selections from “Mahagita: Harp and Vocal Music of Burma” from Smithsonian Folkways on today’s show:

“Lonely in the Forest”

“A Huntsman Enchanted”

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