It is commonly assumed that smaller powers are prone to getting trapped and lost in the game of contrasting powers; however, the story of six major powers and their relations with Myanmar over the past 70 years has shown that the smaller party does not always take a passive, victimised position in these relations but can achieve an active, relatively independent position. Myanmar accomplished this position by shielding itself from sanctions from the United States, UK, and Japan using China's assistance; implementing selective trade and investment; and diversifying its weapon suppliers, including Russia and other players in the arms market. In this paper, the data on 70 years of arms transfer are analysed to exemplify the defence policy of Myanmar towards major powers, the bilateral trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) data are used for economic policy, and the three indicators provide a simplified but concise picture of Myanmar's long-term relations with world major powers. Myanmar is a relatively small power in the global landscape of larger powers, but it has maintained its independence in policy making and has made full use of the competition for power among major powers for its own benefit. Thus, it is not the big fish but the small one that has helped shape Myanmar's relations with major powers.
Photo by Boris Ulzibat