With two years of sustained liberalization under its belt, the Myanmar government in 2013 continued to recalibrate its economy and society. Domestically, the economy accelerated, crucial legislation was passed, media restrictions were relaxed, and negotiations for an unprecedented, nationwide ceasefire accord gained valuable traction. Myanmar's hosting of the World Economic Forum's East Asian Summit, the signing of an international atomic energy agreement, and its new role as chair of ASEAN demonstrated the government's commitment to expanding its foreign relations. By December, approved cumulative foreign direct investment rose to US$44 billion dollars, a strong indication of international confidence in the country's future.
Yet, the momentum of the previous two years was somewhat constrained by deep social cleavages that emerged earlier in the year. Sectarian violence, ethnic tensions, and labour disputes were significant concerns for Thein Sein's administration in 2013, thereby dampening some of the euphoria and enthusiasm associated with the reform process. The government's expansion into rural areas of the country — where local authorities had traditionally exercised more autonomy — was met, at times, with predictable resistance. Local interests and priorities came into conflict with national ones over land use, resource extraction and the extent of government authority. Back in Naypyidaw, noticeable fissures between the executive and legislative branches began to appear as potential candidates for the 2015 presidential elections sparred conspicuously over a range of issues.
President Thein Sein began the year by highlighting the need to develop “mutual trust” between the government and the people, a message that his administration had been stating publically since taking office. Speaking to the nation via radio, still the best technology of communication available, the short speech referred to the political reforms of the previous two years and described a new framework for economic and social reforms. His speech was more than good politics. By associating socio-economic relief efforts with the political reconciliation process, Thein Sein hoped to connect with communities who lacked confidence in the state's institutions or who had yet to feel the effects of the recent reforms. Naypyidaw's expanding role in local political and economic matters was a key dynamic for 2013 and a continuity of interaction that has characterized the history of Myanmar state-society relations.