Monday witnessed the climax of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to China. Chinese President Xi Jinping met him in Beijing. On the same day, a joint statement was signed by the two governments. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Mr Mahathir also held a press conference on Monday.
The depth of China-Malaysia traditional friendship and practical cooperation was fully displayed in the bilateral meetings, the joint statement, Mr Mahathir’s visit to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and his ride on a high-speed train. It also showed Kuala Lumpur welcomes investment from Chinese enterprises. Bilateral cooperation under the Belt and Road framework has broad potential.
The visit once again proved the solid foundation of friendly China-Malaysia cooperation. Malaysia’s political changes and specific issues in bilateral collaboration will exert no impact on this foundation. Mr Mahathir himself is a driver of positive Sino-Malaysian ties. Those who predicted his return might pose challenges to cooperation with China only showed their naiveté.
The cooperation deals on palm oil, rubber and durians have great economic significance. The bilateral currency swap arrangement is an achievement for the financial sector. The two also expressed a common position on the South China Sea issue in the joint statement. All of these are highlights of this visit. Mr Mahathir articulated that he welcomes, supports and will continue to participate in the Belt and Road initiative. He welcomes Chinese enterprises to invest in Malaysia. When it comes to differences over specific infrastructure projects, information from various sources shows that the two sides are willing to resolve them through communication and consultation.
Malaysia is a relatively large economy in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) as well as a country by the South China Sea. It is home to many overseas Chinese. China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. After Malaysia recently experienced a change in ruling party, the nation’s collaboration with China once again stabilised amid speculation and then demonstrated a good momentum. This is of great significance for people to understand relations between China and Asean as well as between China and all its neighbouring countries.
The fair, win-win principle of China’s relations with its neighbouring countries can withstand all kinds of tests and can lead to the patience needed to solve specific problems.
China is developing rapidly and has brought opportunities to its periphery for common development. Compared with concerns created by the “China threat” theory, these opportunities have increasingly become the main theme of the whole region.
During Mr Mahathir’s visit, he praised China’s technological progress and expressed his wish to introduce Chinese technologies to Malaysia. Given that China’s industrial and technological capabilities are more compatible to developing countries, collaboration between Beijing and Kuala Lumpur has huge room for expansion. But how Malaysia, with changing ruling parties, can guarantee the safety of Chinese investments is a common concern of Chinese society. It is believed that Malaysia will attach great importance to this concern. As long as Malaysia is sincere about conducting mutually beneficial cooperation with China and eliminating interference from the outside world, there is no problem between the two that cannot be resolved.