The Wa of Myanmar and China’s Quest for Global Dominance

NIAS Press
Editorial review:

by Bertil Lintner 

Shan State in the north-eastern corner of Myanmar has long been plagued by conflict in various forms – political insurrection, ethnic strife and drug wars. It is also part of the Golden Triangle, one of the main global centres of illicit drug production. The region is home to the Wa, a tribal hill people straddling the Chinese border who in the past three decades have built a military force (the United Wa State Army). Originally a Maoist insurgent army under Burmese leadership, from 1989 it became the vehicle for Wa power and is now the largest and best-equipped military non-state actor in the Asia-Pacific region. Chinese economic, political and military support also ensure the Wa have retained their autonomy. Today, they continue to dominate the local drug trade, which feeds half of Asia’s consumption of amphetamines, and operate a lucrative cross-border casino industry.

In The Wa of Myanmar and China’s Quest for Global Dominance, Lintner provides a rare, close-up look of this little-known people. He was the only foreign journalist to visit the Wa areas when controlled by communist insurgents and has returned there since. In a book relevant to current debates about geopolitics in Asia, the illicit drug trade, Myanmar’s decades-long civil wars and ongoing efforts to negotiate a settlement, Lintner traces the history of the Wa Hills and the struggles of its people.

The author then demonstrates the global relevance of the Wa, revealing how they have come to play a pivotal role in Beijing’s current efforts to extend its influence in Myanmar. He also maps how China’s Belt and Road Initiative intersects with the Golden Triangle.

This is, then, a compelling account of ethnic conflict, drug barons and Chinese geopolitical ambitions that will appeal to anyone interested in these issues, be they students or scholars of Burma; diplomats, policy-makers or security professionals; or the general reader.

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The Wa of Myanmar and China’s Quest for Global Dominance

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