News & Politics

China Labels Myanmar Coup as a 'Cabinet Reshuffle'

China Labels Myanmar Coup as a 'Cabinet Reshuffle'
(Toshifumi Kitamura/Pool Photo via AP)

The Biden administration has called the military takeover in Myanmar a “coup” while China characterizes the event as a “cabinet reshuffle.”

I’ve never heard of a “cabinet reshuffle” that resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of the elected leader as well as the detention of hundreds of others.

The new designation by the state department is significant. Characterizing the events as a “coup” automatically triggers sanctions and a review of some aid programs. The Biden administration insists, however, that it will continue to support the Myanmar civilian government and people.


“We have expressed grave concern regarding the Burmese military’s detention of civilian government leaders,” a State Department official said on the call. “After a careful review of the facts and circumstances, we have assessed that Aung San Suu Kyi, the leader of Burma’s ruling party, and Win Mynt, the duly elected head of government, were deposed in a military coup on February 1st.”

The Biden administration honed its stance on Tuesday hours after Chinese state media dismissed the takeover as “a major cabinet reshuffle,” rolling out euphemisms to avoid calling it a coup. Democratic leaders around the world have slammed the Burmese military, and Mr. Biden had already made it clear the U.S. was “taking note” of who was standing up for Myanmar’s people.

Will he take note of China’s ludicrous response? China is a close ally of the Burmese military and has supported other coups in the past. China sees the military takeover as an effort to bring “stability” to the country.

The nationalist Global Times meanwhile quoted unnamed experts as saying the generals’ power-grab could be seen as “an adjustment to the country’s dysfunctional power structure.” The statement almost echoed remarks posted online later by Myanmar’s military rulers, who described their takeover as “inevitable.”

The paper — known for its fiery commentaries against China’s critics — also used the occasion to take a pop at former U.S. president Donald Trump, whose combative approach to Beijing had plunged U.S.-China ties to their lowest in decades.

“Some experts mentioned that… Trump, who refused to admit his election defeat and reportedly incited the Capitol riots, might be the Myanmar military’s inspiration,” it wrote.

What is it that Communists hate about free elections? Of course, they’re dysfunctional. They’re also messy, disorganized, and loud. It’s a democracy, dummies. Maybe it’s all the shouting that’s getting on China’s nerves.

In truth, the Myanmar government, led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, is no shining beacon of tolerance and freedom. They have oppressed the Muslim minority Rohingyas to the point that the International Criminal Court has brought a charge of genocide against her government. She denies the Royingya’s have been targeted and has even defended the military’s brutality.


Ms Suu Kyi’s former international supporters accused her of doing nothing to stop rape, murder and possible genocide by refusing to condemn the still powerful military or acknowledge accounts of atrocities.

A few initially argued that she was a pragmatic politician, trying to govern a multi-ethnic country with a complex history.

But her personal defence of the army’s actions at the ICJ hearing in the Hague was seen as a new turning point for her international reputation.

There is little doubt that the military has violently cracked down on the million and a half Rohingyas in Myanmar. Estimates range from 7,000 to 20,000 Rohingyas murdered by the military and the police with nearly a million fleeing the country to Bangladesh.

But Suu Kyi remains enormously popular in Myanmar with the majority Buddist population. That doesn’t make the genocide right, but removing her is not up to any nation, and certainly not the military junta that now controls the country.