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Aung San Suu Kyi heads to China to forge future ties

Myanmar's celebrated opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi prepares to visit China on Wednesday as a free woman. But will she manage to build bridges with the regime, which had previously supported her 15-year house arrest?

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi plans to meet with Chinese leaders in Beijing this week to strengthen ties between the two neighboring nations.

Suu Kyi's first trip to China comes as part of a five-day meeting between China's Communist Party and delegates from her opposition National League for Democracy (NLD).

A new chapter in China-Myanmar relations?

Aside from getting to know the internationally recognized Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi, China also seeks to re-establish its relationship with Myanmar, as the developing country has gradually shifted its interest away from China to seek funding for its multinational projects elsewhere. China's declining influence in Southeast Asia, as well as an upsurge in ethnic insurgency along the border of the two nations, has cooled affairs between the two states in recent months.

But China hopes that talks in the coming days will help improve relations once again. With Suu Kyi's NLD expected to perform well in Myanmar's election in November - if a free and fair vote takes place - China appears to be wooing the charismatic leader from Myanmar.

Although

Suu Kyi is excluded from ascending to the presidency

under a military-drafted constitution, her power and influence would grow regardless of the NLD's performance in the November election.

Former captive hopes to captivate

Suu Kyi is largely expected to take a diplomatic approach during her visit to China as a free woman after

15 years in house arrest

, focusing on future cooperation between the two countries.

Beijing was previously a key backer of Myanmar's military junta while the country was placed under Western sanctions. It provided a much needed international ally for the brutal regime, which crushed dissent while keeping Suu Kyi detained.

Activists have been putting pressure on Suu Kyi to make some reference to her fellow Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo's ongoing detention in China. It's unsure whether she will make any public appearances at all, or address this uncomfortable issue.

Aung San Suu Kyi's image has suffered some setbacks lately due to her

reluctance to speak out on the plight of Myanmar's unwanted Rohingya Muslims

, who have been finding themselves at the center of a migrant crisis engulfing the entire region.

The NLD has confirmed that the 69-year-old opposition leader is expected to meet President Xi Jinping and premier Li Keqiang during her visit, but Chinese authorities have not released any details pertaining to her schedule.

ss/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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