BEIJING. China is set to begin construction of a railway line to Myanmar this year. The move is expected to help Beijing in its competition with India in acquiring infrastructure development and other business contracts in Myanmar.
China has also entered into an agreement with the Russian government to resume freight train services on a railway line, which was closed down six years back due to differences among its stake holders. The 100-km railway line connecting Hunchun in China with Makhalino in Russia is scheduled to reopen next May.
Construction of the rail line to Myanmar has been delayed due to elections and some political problems in that country.
"We originally wanted to start as soon as possible but because the (new) Myanmar government has just been formed and because of their internal problems, we have had to wait," Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said Tuesday "We want to start construction this year," he said.
One of the challenges facing the new line would be mismatched gauges in the two countries. The two governments have signed an agreement to sort out this problem. China is offering several sweeteners like help in establishing power grids, telecommunication networks, oil and gas pipelines and ports.
Myanmar faces wide ranging sanctions from Western governments and is keen on getting assistance from Beijing. The country saw its first election in 20 years in November but it has been condemned by critics as government controlled voting exercise.