Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang is said to have reiterated Beijing’s offer to mediate between Myanmar and Bangladesh in “improving” their bilateral ties as the latest attempt to both project itself as a negotiator in global conflicts and emerge as a key player. Qin Gang, who is the highest-ranking Chinese official to meet Myanmar’s top leadership since the military coup over two years ago, also pledged to support the country in “exploring” a development path with “Myanmar characteristics”. China has maintained close ties with the internationally isolated junta government and refused to condemn the military takeover. Hailing China-Myanmar ties, visiting foreign minister Qin told the country’s military leader General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw that Beijing was also ready to “expand” ties among China, Bangladesh and Myanmar. Qin, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement, told the Junta general: “China supports Myanmar improving its relations with Bangladesh, with related issues to be resolved through consultation, adding that China is willing to work with the two countries to expand China-Myanmar-Bangladesh pragmatic cooperation.” China has worked with both countries to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis since it erupted in 2017, partly to keep its own border with Myanmar safe and protect its economic interests across the boundary. Qin’s latest announcement, however, is bolstered by the role China recently played in bringing about a rapprochement between rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia. Ties between Naypyitaw and Dhaka have been strained since 2017 over the Rohingya refugee crisis with hundreds of thousands from the marginalised ethnic Muslim community fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar to escape persecution. Beijing, however, is using its economic heft to forge closer ties with Myanmar. “China supports Myanmar in advancing its political transition process and backs relevant parties in the country to properly address differences and seek national reconciliation under the constitutional and legal framework,” Qin said. Referring to the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, Qin said: “China will continue to provide assistance within its capacity for the development of Myanmar, accelerate the promotion of key cooperation projects in the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor, and carry out projects benefiting the people such as agriculture, education and medical care.” The 2021 coup in Myanmar deposed elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, triggering widespread peaceful protests, which were violently suppressed by security forces. Thousands were killed in the crackdown, leaving the country in a volatile situation. Meanwhile, reports from Yangon said Myanmar’s military regime on Wednesday pardoned 2,153 prisoners jailed for criticising the junta following the coup. “The amnesty follows the release of more than 3,000 prisoners last month,” Questions have also been raised as to why China is suddenly putting so much emphasis on the Rohingya repatriation issue. Bangladesh is moving closer to an embrace of the Indo-Pacific Strategy pursued by the Americans and its partners in the region, which revolves around countering China. This move comes as the US and a few key allies have signalled that Bangladesh should be a part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy, according to the brief. Beijing now wants to get more confidence and trust from Dhaka countering the USA and China, Japan. Even as Bangladesh embraces the Indo-Pacific Strategy, it is still trying to placate China. Dhaka’s draft Indo-Pacific Outlook stipulates that it seeks to avoid rivalries and has no security goals. The country may be thinking that international pressure on Myanmar’s military government will ease once the repatriation begins. At the UN General Assembly session in September 2019, a tripartite mechanism was formulated by Bangladesh, Myanmar and China for the repatriation of Rohingya living in Bangladesh. But repatriation has not been possible so far due to the security situation in Rakhine State. China started the first round of trilateral meetings in 2018 and held a virtual trilateral meeting on January 20, 2021. In that discussion, it was decided that the repatriation will begin by June 2021. But it hasn’t started yet. Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui attended a virtual meeting between Myanmar and Bangladesh on January 19, 2022, to discuss the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims. After discussions, all parties agreed to begin repatriation. China is making earnest efforts to resolve the underlying issues of the crisis and improve the situation there. Due to China’s influence over Myanmar, China can play an important role in resolving this dispute. The stability of Rakhine State is crucial to protect China’s interests in Myanmar. The infrastructure China has built in Rakhine State will have a major impact on the region’s economic growth. Human resources are required to manage all these facilities. If these Rohingyas and Rakhines are given opportunities to acquire various benefits and skills, they will be useful to the Chinese. A stable Rakhine will also attract tourists and the region’s tourism industry will grow. Rakhine and Rohingya can also work in that sector. It will deal with the unemployment problem of that state. As the economy improves, the level of ethnic hatred will gradually decrease and harmony will be easier to achieve. The Rakhine region is essential for China’s military plans as well as for ensuring its presence in the Indian Ocean. The Western world has not put much pressure on resolving the Rohingya crisis and repatriating them to Myanmar. They are talking about various decisions including economic sanctions. But the reality is that their words have only served as “lip service,” they have no practical application. We have always said that China’s role and cooperation in solving the Rohingya crisis is very important. If China is proactive, this crisis can be resolved quickly. Rohingya repatriation has repeatedly failed due to the blatant apathy of the Myanmar government and neglect of the international community. We hope that in the future when it comes to finding a long-term solution to the biggest refugee crisis in history, we will remember China’s contribution. The writer is a London-based Bangladeshi expatriate who is a Bangladesh and Myanmar affairs observer, analyst, and researcher.