Chinese media, including Xinhua, CCTV, and People’s Daily, have confirmed that four Chinese citizens have been killed as a result of a misjudged bombing run by the Myanmar Air Force on Friday. These reports come after a Chinese foreign ministry press conference earlier this week confirmed bombings by Myanmar jets on the Chinese side of the China-Myanmar border, in Yunnan province, last weekend. However, the press conference noted that though a civilian domicile was damaged, no Chinese lives were lost.
Today’s reports additionally note that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin has summoned Myanmar’s envoy to China, Thit Linn Ohn, to lodge “solemn representations.” The bombing, which claimed four lives and resulted in nine injuries and took place after the press conference earlier this week, suggested repeated cross-border strikes by Myanmar jets. Myanmar’s Air Force has been conducting air strikes against ethnic Chinese Kokang rebels along the country’s northeastern border with China.
According to Xinhua, a bomb released by a Myanmar jet struck “a sugarcane field in the border city of Lincang and killed four people working there on Friday afternoon. Nine others were also injured.” Liu, the vice foreign minister, has condemned the incident and urged Myanmar to “thoroughly investigate the case and inform the Chinese side of the result.” Liu additionally recommended that Myanmar “punish the perpetrator.”
Earlier this week, in a press conference, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hong Lei noted that the “Chinese side has expressed grave concerns to the Myanmar side, asking them to get to the bottom of this incident as soon as possible and take effective measures to ensure that such incident will never happen again.” Obviously, given these reports, China’s earlier diplomatic pressure failed. As I noted earlier this week, the cross-border bombings put Beijing in a difficult position. News of Chinese casualties will only render the situation more severe and test the limits of China’s policy of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.
It remains to be seen if the incident will draw a widespread nationalist backlash in China, prompting the government to take action against Myanmar. Although the central leadership would in all likelihood prefer to resolve this situation diplomatically, nationalists may fear that inadequate action could erode perceptions of China’s resolve and credibility as a rising power.