Clinton Visits Burma: Steps Toward Openness in a Pariah State

People visit the Shwedagon Paya on December 05, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.</p>

People visit the Shwedagon Paya on December 05, 2010 in Yangon, Burma.

Hillary Clinton arrives in Burma on Wednesday. She is the first top-level American official to visit the isolated Asian nation in more than 50 years.

During that time, economic sanctions have hindered development in Burma and the country's military has become known for a variety of injustices, including child soldiers, political prisoners, state-sanctioned rape and the world’s longest-running civil war.

In an ostensible step away from a military dictatorship, Burma held its first democratic elections in 2010. But the voting was rigged, and the victorious party was stacked with ex-officers and their cronies.

Only now are official breakthroughs finally chipping away at the old narrative. Recent shifts in Burma include the approval of democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi's political party, economic liberalization, and reduction of cultural censorship.

So, what does Clinton's visit mean for the country? Some analysts foresee a stronger US-Burma relationship that could shift regional politics and potentially dislodge China as Burma’s lone ally.

The world watches as Burma is courted by two world powers.