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Old friends

  • Mahathir has always been a pragmatic leader who would make appropriate judgments and decisions based on the needs of the country as a trading economy and sovereign state. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

Sin Chew Daily

Which way will the Sino-Malaysian bilateral relationship be headed to? What kind of changes can we expect from diplomatic, trade and personnel exchanges between both the countries?

This is what the Beijing authorities as well as the local Chinese business community and even the international community will be very much concerned about following the victory of Pakatan Harapan in GE14, with Mahathir returning as the country's prime minister for a second time.

When Mahathir-led PH was crashing with the former BN administration during the election campaign, mega projects involving Chinese investments became the frequent targets, giving the public an impression both Mahathir and PH were hostile to China and Chinese investments.

Indeed, when the country saw its first ever change of federal administration since the independence, major projects involving Chinese investments were the first to be axed, including stalling the KL-Singapore HSR project and reviewing the East Coast Rail Link project, mainly because these projects involve astronomical sums of money and would push up government debts in addition to the highly dubious agreement terms.

This subsequently raised concerns among the public about the PH government's attitude towards Beijing.

The shelving and stalling of projects involving Chinese investments has dealt a major blow on Beijing's "One Belt, One Road" initiative while Chinese investors will take the brunt of such a shift in government policy. Some critics have even suggested that Mahathir has intentionally kept a distance from Beijing diplomatically.

As a matter of fact, the critics have been misinterpreting Mahathir's handling of Sino-Malaysian relationship, and this stems from their lack of understanding of Mahathir's long-term attitude towards China as well as the strong bilateral relationship between the two countries.

Chinese authorities also made the same flawed judgment on Malaysia's political situation before the elections.

Mahathir has always been a pragmatic leader who would make appropriate judgments and decisions based on the needs of the country as a trading economy and sovereign state.

Even though Mahathir was highly critical about Chinese investments during the election campaign, soon after he took over the baton, he has been constantly releasing signals of goodwill in a bid to mend the relationship with China.

While targeting Chinese investments during the election campaign, Mahathir was actually hitting out specifically at Najib. He halted the mega projects involving Chinese investments after becoming PM largely on economic considerations, not because of a shift in his diplomatic strategy.

After taking over as PM, Mahathir has on several occasions voiced his support for Beijing's "One Belt, One Road" initiative despite having shelved a number of projects involving Chinese investments, with the marked exception of Alibaba Group's DFTZ project.

He even praised the new SUV model by Proton, which was earlier sold to China's Geely Holdings.

Daim Zainuddin's recent courtesy calls to Chinese premier Li Keqiang and foreign minister Wang Yi in Beijing as Mahathir's special envoy were meant to pave the way for Mahathir's official visit to China later this month in hope of re-negotiating major projects with China.

Wang Yi, meanwhile, made a stopover in Malaysia on his way to China-Asean foreign ministers' meeting in Singapore. This shows that Beijing fully appreciates the strong diplomatic and trade bonds between our two countries.

From what we understand, Chinese President Xi Jinping will throw a warm reception to an "old friend" Mahathir when he visits Beijing later this month. Being good friends and old friends, sure enough any misunderstanding can be settled amicably, while the solid Sino-Malaysian relationship is poised to dissolve all unjustified doubts for the sake of greater mutual benefits built upon the basis of trust.


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