Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Beijing
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Aung San Suu Kyi arrives in Beijing
Story highlightsMyanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has met President Xi JinpingObserverssay China is hedging its bets ahead of Myanmar elections later this yearThe Nobel Peace Prizewinner is not expected to raise the issue of her hosts' crackdown on dissentSuu Kyi met Wednesdaywith Wang Jiarui, a senior official of the Chinese Communist Party, shortly after touching down inthe Chinese capital, according to China's state-run media. Wang is vice chairman of the NationalCommittee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference and head of the InternationalDepartment of the Communist Party's Central Committee.
Suu Kyi also met with Xi, and she is scheduled to meet with Premier Li Keqiang during her trip,according to her party, the National League for Democracy.
Observers say China hopes that the June 10-14 visit, a party-to-party meeting between the NationalLeague for Democracy and the Chinese Communist Party, will allow the country to boost its waninginfluence in its southern neighbor, which has increased engagement with the West during dramaticpolitical reforms in recent years.
Meanwhile, Suu Kyi's first visit to China offers an opportunity to burnish her credentials as astateswoman before national elections later this year, said Aung Zaw, editor-in-chief of TheIrrawaddy, a news magazine which specializes in covering politics in Myanmar and Southeast Asia.
"She's been dubbed a darling of the West, but she's showing she's someone they can work with," hesaid.
Speak out?Activists are calling on Suu Kyi, who was held under house arrest for nearly 15 years byMyanmar's former military junta, to speak out on human rights issues during her visit to China,which is cracking down on dissent.
In particular, Human Rights Watch's Sophie Richardson said in a statement, Suu Kyi should call forthe immediate release of her fellow Nobel Peace Prize winner, the writer Liu Xiaobo, who is servingan 11-year sentence for "inciting subversion of state power" by calling for political reform andhuman rights.
But observers say any such move is unlikely.
"I don't think Beijing is inviting her as an icon of democracy," said Zaw. "I think they're seeing her asa politician who is ready to play."
The 69-year-old leader of Myanmar's opposition National League for Democracy has been criticizedsince her release from house arrest in 2010 for her failure to speak up regarding causes in hercountry, notably the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority, which has created a refugeecrisis in the region.
"The Aung San Suu Kyi we used to know and the one we know today are very different," said Zaw,
adding that she had also disappointed some people when a commission she led had approved acontroversial Chinese-operated copper mine over the objections of protesters.
"She has become a politician," Zaw said. "She's no longer a human rights activist."
David Mathieson, a senior researcher on Asia for Human Rights Watch, told CNN that China'sleaders are confident that Suu Kyi will not embarrass them.
"Beijing is probably... calculating that Suu Kyi's refusal to speak out on many human rights issues inher own country means she is unlikely to speak out about China's denial of democracy and appallinghuman rights record," Mathieson said.
READ MORE: Why is Aung San Suu Kyi silent on the Rohingya issue?
Turbulent timeSuu Kyi's visit comes ata turbulent time in the relationshipbetween China and Myanmar.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, reliedon its northern neighbor as adiplomatic ally and investor during thedecades when it was an internationalpariah state ruled by an authoritarianmilitary junta.
But since political reforms in 2011,relations between China and
Myanmar's quasi-military government have run "hot and cold" due to a number of issues, said Zaw.
In March, five people were killed inChina's Yunnan province when a shellfrom fighting between Myanmargovernment troops and ethnic Kokangrebels strayed across the border.
And China, the largest investor inMyanmar, has been unhappy whenmajor infrastructure projects it hasbacked, such as the Myitsone dam, havebeen suspended due to protests.
"China's leaders can no longer trustBurma's military-backed civilian government to guarantee its many interests in the country," saidMathieson.
By building bridges with Suu Kyi, China was underlining its interest in Myanmar, said Zaw.
"Everyone is coming to play the game over there and I think China is telling them they're astakeholder," he said.
'Hedging bets'While Suu Kyi cannot run for president -- a clause in Myanmar's military-draftedconstitution bars her, as someone who has been married to a foreigner -- her party will likely bemore powerful in the new government, said Mathieson.
"This is China hedging its bets by expanding their relationship with her," he said.
The move could also be read as a snub to Myanmar'squasi-military government in light of recent tensions."The invitation will no doubt upset the Burmesegovernment," said Zaw.
A spokesperson for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairssaid at a briefing Tuesday that the visit was intended to"further enhance mutual understanding between thetwo parties, and move forward the China-Myanmar
friendly and cooperative relations."
Meanwhile, China's state-run Global Times was upbeat about the visit, saying in an editorial itbelieved Suu Kyi would "become a good friend of China's."
CNN's Shen Lu contributed to this report.