This article investigates three Chinese multibillion overseas investment projects in Myanmar—the Myitsone dam, the Letpadaung copper mine, and the Sino-Myanmar oil and gas pipelines—over the course of three consecutive Myanmar governments. It explains why these mega-projects obtained varying degrees of success in terms of their completion and operation status and why only the dam project was unilaterally suspended following Myanmar’s controlled and peaceful power transition in 2011. Through a structured and focused comparison, this article argues that the “people’s will” is not the reason why President Thein Sein halted the Myitsone dam project, despite his claims and contrary to much scholarly research on this case. Rather, the cost-benefit calculations of Myanmar government, in particular how it weighed the urgency of national security against other costs and benefits such as appeasing or failing the domestic opposition, determine the varying degrees of success both over time and across projects. This article draws implications for the completion and operation status of Chinese overseas investment projects around the globe.
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