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Tea Leaves

In Myanmar's remote north, China is the key

Irrawaddy town that inspired Orwell's 'Burmese Days' hopes for BRI prosperity

A Myanmar woman spreads out fish to dry in the sun. (Photo by Lindsay Stubbs)

Katha, on the Irrawaddy River in northern Myanmar, is best known as the inspiration for "Burmese Days," a fictional critique of British colonialism by the English novelist George Orwell. A century after Orwell worked in Katha as a colonial police officer, however, the remote town's future may depend on its links to a newer (and older) foreign power -- China.

Orwell, whose real name was Eric Blair, spent five years in Myanmar, then known as Burma, returning to England in 1927 after a final posting to Katha, which he called Kyauktada. Later novels such as "Animal Farm" and "Nineteen Eighty-Four" are more famous, but it is "Burmese Days," published in 1934, that has become a seminal text for students of colonialism in both Western and Asian universities.

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