Now they have been forced to reconsider their methods, in a country where anti-Chinese sentiment is virulent.
“Myanmar has a xenophobic political culture and so this exacerbates its reaction to China’s rise and influence in the country,” Gordon said.
However, he believed that Chinese business, which has inundated Myanmar’s population of 60 million with consumer goods, would find a new way to prosper.
“Chinese infrastructure and large-scale projects may decrease in relative importance as other players come in,” he said. “But the US is not going to take over the market for cheap plastic chairs in Myanmar any time soon.”
Cities like Mandalay have long welcomed legions of Chinese traders and businesspeople.
These days US firms like Pepsi and Coca-Cola are not their only rivals — Japan and its corporations see Myanmar as fertile ground to grow their operations in the face of a weak domestic economy squeezed by a shrinking population.
Coupled with aid pledges and joint economic development projects, “Japan is the quiet but big mover,” said Sean Turnell, an expert at Australia’s Macquarie University.