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Burma Road: China’s Soft Power in a New Myanmar

Jeff Howe

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Jeff Howe, assistant professor in the School of Journalism, recently went on a month-long reporting trip to Burma and Thailand. GlobalPost published a five-part series featuring Howe and the photographer Gary Knight.

THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE — This place has always served as a watery junction where human and physical geographies collide. Burma, Laos and Thailand all meet here, as do the great Mekong and its smaller tributary, the Ruak, which tumbles down out of the Shan Hills.

The confluence also served as GlobalPost’s base of operations in Southeast Asia, for the excellent reason that nowhere is China’s extensive influence in the region so starkly evident.

GlobalPost was looking to see how China is exerting itself here, how it is trying out a new kind of ‘soft power,’ a phrase coined by Harvard University Professor and retired US Navy Admiral Joseph Nye.

Read more at GlobalPost 

Ferry boatmen on the banks of the Rangoon River. (Gary Knight/VII/GlobalPost)

An engineer and Burmese laborers on the gas and oil pipeline that carves its way from Kunming in China to the Indian Ocean on the coast of Burma. Built and designed by the China National Petroleum Corporation, the pipeline will be 2800 km long once complete. (Gary Knight/VII/GlobalPost)

Villagers displaced by the Yeywa Dam scratch out a living in a new community. The village has no water supply nearby so villagers have to take an ox cart to the Myitnge River a mile away. There is no irrigation, no shade and many familes from this ancient community refused to settle here, destroying a community that is hundreds of years old. The government installed electric pylons but the villagers are unable to afford the subscription fee. (Gary Knight/VII/GlobalPost)