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Enabling activist resilience: Bystander protection during protest crackdowns in Myanmar

Author: Mai Van Tran

Published: 05 April 2023 in Asian Politics & Policy, Vol. 15, Issue 2


ABSTRACT: What accounts for the survival and long-term participation of activists in contentious movements under repression? I argue for the role of an important yet oft-neglected factor: protective support by civilian bystanders. I propose that, mainly motivated by victim-oriented sympathy, bystanders engage in high-risk protection that helps activists to escape crackdowns and bolsters their dedication to the movement. To test my theoretical claims, I examine hard cases for activist survival at the height of state violence during military rule in Myanmar between 1988 and 2010, with an original qualitative data set consisting of oral history interviews and written accounts by more than 100 protest observers and former pro-democracy activists. The data set presents an unprecedented number of voices from the average, non-contentious general public, which are mostly missing in existing research on social movements. This approach generates a fresh perspective to better understand opportunities and constraints around movement entrepreneurs in hostile environments.

Will Taiwan's Hard-Earned Relationship with Myanmar Change in the Post-Coup Era?

Author: Kristina Kironska

Published: 16 June 2023 in Taiwan and Southeast Asia: Soft Power and Hard Truths Facing China’s Ascendancy (Accepted Manuscript), Routledge


ABSTRACT: This chapter looks closely at the evolution of Taiwan’s relations with Burma/Myanmar, especially in the past ten years. When Taiwan embarked on its path to democratization, Burma/Myanmar was still under authoritarian rule with strong geopolitical influence coming from its large neighbor, China. Myanmar’s close alliance with China – the paukpaw (fraternal) relationship – constituted an obstacle for Taiwan to deepen relations with Myanmar. Nevertheless, there were still some economic and socio-cultural links, including Taiwan being home to a large, mostly Chinese-speaking, Myanmar community. A more engaging environment was created with the economic liberalization and the top-down transition to discipline-flourishing democracy (as the military termed it) in the 2010s in Myanmar and with the New Southbound Policy in Taiwan. Following the exchange of representative offices in 2016, economic and people-to-people links intensified. Still, the relationship was very cautious, especially in political terms, with Taiwan remaining quiet on the Rohingya issue. Following the military coup in Myanmar in 2021, Taiwan took a (mostly rhetorically) tougher line against the new military regime and accepted a parliamentary motion to criticize the coup. The Myanmar community in Taiwan came out to protest against the military, and the Milk Tea Alliance brought together campaigners from the region. While China has, with some hesitation in the beginning, increased cooperation with the Myanmar junta, Taiwan’s stance is attractive to the other side: the pro-democracy movement. Has Taiwan found a new way how to diffuse its co-optive power in Myanmar and bet on a value-based policy? Will this approach help Taiwan differentiate itself from China among the Myanmar people?

Unraveling Chinese Bilateral Diplomatic Behavior: Evidence from Post-Coup Sino-Myanmar Relations, a Rational Choice Approach

Author: Kristina Kironska, Diya Jiang

Published: 30 June 2023 in International Journal of China Studies, Vol. 14, No. 1 (Version of Record)


ABSTRACT: Attempting to understand the strategic motives and geopolitical interests behind Chinese actions in bilateral international relations, this paper examines Beijing’s reaction to the 2021 Myanmar Coup. Adopting a rationalist approach, the paper conducts cost and benefit analysis through game-theoretical lenses and categorizes Chinese interests as expansionary and defensive, both contributing to its potential payoff in bilateral exchanges. Applying the resulted model to the Post-Coup Sino-Myanmar interactions in which Beijing’s attitude shifted from the initial ambiguity to more favorable stance towards the Tatmadaw, the authors find that such shift can be attributed to a changing reality of China’s perceived political and economic outcomes at different time periods. In addition to offering insights into ongoing China-Myanmar relations, this article identifies key patterns of the decision-making process taken by Beijing. It argues that, when countries engage with China bilaterally, they will likely face a more volatile, daring player willing to take more controversial actions

Taiwanese Public Opinion on Inviting the Dalai Lama to Taiwan: Political or Religious Motives?

Author: Kristina Kironska, Mei-Lin Pan 

Published: 1 February 2024 in International Journal of Taiwan Studies (Accepted Manuscript)


ABSTRACT: The Dalai Lama’s absence from Taiwan since 2009, attributed to mounting pressure from China, has not deterred the persistent calls from the Taiwanese populace for his visit. However, the extent to which this desire represents a mainstream or minority viewpoint remains unclear. This raises questions about the motivations behind the Taiwanese people’s appeals for the Dalai Lama to visit the country. Is this driven by religious sentiments, or is it politically motivated? To explore these questions, the authors propose a hypothesis that suggests a dual motivation for pro-green individuals advocating the Dalai Lama’s visit—namely, a blend of religious and political inclinations, encompassing pro-Taiwan independence sentiments and opposition to the Chinese Communist Party. On the other hand, for pro-blue supporters favouring the Dalai Lama’s invitation, the primary motivation appears to lean more towards religious considerations. This paper draws its insights from a comprehensive survey project, the Sinophone Borderlands Survey, conducted in Taiwan during May and June 2022.

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