REDEFINING ECONOMIC GROWTH
Malaysia will benefit from greater connectivity, says Najib
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will arrive in China today, joining 27 other world leaders at the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF) at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
The forum, to be opened on Sunday here, is the highest-level dialogue since the vision for the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative was shared by Xi in 2013.
The initiative aims to redefine the global economy by integrating the economies of Europe, Asia and Africa through an unprecedentedly powerful network of transport and communications infrastructure.
Najib, in a blog post, said the forum was an important agenda in ensuring Malaysia reaped the benefits of the OBOR initiative which could potentially boost the nation’s economy through greater connectivity.
“Malaysia’s strategic location is an asset which will enable us to play an important role in this initiative, and I am confident the people will enjoy the benefits from more holistic connectivity and economic development.”
Najib will have meetings with Xi and Chinese premier Li Keqiang ahead of the forum.
He will also visit the home base of China e-commerce giant Alibaba Group in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.
He will call on its founder, Jack Ma, who is also the digital economy adviser to the Malaysian government.
“I will fulfil the invitation of my friend, Jack Ma, and see for myself the success of Alibaba which has created more than 36,000 job opportunities and changed the industrial ecosystem in China into one which is more dynamic and inclusive.
“Through Alibaba’s digital economy ecosystem, entrepreneurs in rural areas can also reap the benefits of a borderless world.”
Najib said Ma’s experience and expertise would definitely help boost the nation’s economy as well as create 60,000 job opportunities through the Digital Free Trade Zone launched in March.
He also expressed confidence that his working visit would bring results to both nations, not just in terms of bilateral ties, but also cooperation in investment, trade and business.
China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009. According to official trade figures, bilateral trade amounted to RM240.91 billion last year, a 4.4 per cent increase from the previous year.
Malaysian ambassador to China Datuk Zainuddin Yahya said the visit was a show of the country’s support for China’s OBOR initiative, as well as to enhance and strengthen bilateral ties and cooperation.
“It is also a testimony to the close relationship between Najib and Chinese leaders.”
Zainuddin said Najib, during his visit to Hangzhou, was expected to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation Sdn Bhd (MDEC) and Hangzhou Municipal Government and Alibaba (China) Company Limited.
Najib was also scheduled to receive a courtesy call from the Party Secretary of Zhejiang Province Che Jun there, said Zainuddin.
Tomorrow, Najib will meet Xi and Li ahead of the BRF.
“Three government-to-government MoUs are set to be signed and exchanged.”
They are Promoting Mutual Economic Development through China’s Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative; Cooperation in the Field of Transport Infrastructure; and, Protocol of Phytosanitary Requirements for the Export of Pineapples from Malaysia to China.
Najib will be accompanied by his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, cabinet ministers, chief ministers as well as senior government officials during the visit, his seventh to China since becoming prime minister.
Besides the 28 heads of state and government, the forum, held under the theme “Belt and Road: Cooperation for Common Prosperity”, will also be attended by 80 leaders of international organisations.
Other leaders slated to attend are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, Vietnamese President Tran Dai Quang, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen and Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. Also expected are the United Nations secretarygeneral, and presidents of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.
Zainuddin said Najib had been invited to share his views during the Working Luncheon and Leaders’ Roundtable based on two themes — “Promote People-toPeople and Cultural Exchange” and “Promote Pragmatic Cooperation especially in Connectivity to Achieve Interactive Development”.
“He will also take the opportunity to have bilateral meetings with several leaders on the sidelines of the forum.”
OBOR is China’s long-term vision for greater connectivity and cooperation among Asian economies. Under the initiative are the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Reaching from east to west, the Silk Road Economic Belt will extend to Europe through Central Asia and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road will link sea lanes to Southeast Asia, the Middle East and Africa.
The proposal is predicted to encompass territories with a population of more than four billion, as well as nearly one-third of global gross domestic product.
Retracing the ancient silk and spice trade routes, OBOR seeks to reopen the economic corridors and re-energise the commercialism that once drew principalities near and far to the Middle Kingdom. If actualised, OBOR will become an integrated economic zone unprecedented in scale, with the potential to positively impact a third of the world’s population.
COLOMBO: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi headed to Sri Lanka yesterday on a charm offensive as New Delhi seeks to reassert its influence on the island amid signs of a Chinese comeback.
Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena came to power in January 2015 promising to loosen ties with China after a decade of hefty funding by Beijing under his predecessor.
When Modi visited the island shortly after, he promised to “script a golden chapter in the history of India-Sri Lanka relations”.
Just two years later, analysts said Beijing’s influence was on the rise again as Colombo struggles to find alternative sources of foreign capital.
For India, which wants to keep Sri Lanka within its sphere of influence, that is a worrying sign.
“For Modi to visit again so soon is clearly an expression of India’s concerns about China’s deepening economic roots in Sri Lanka and the potential strategic, even military, advantages this might ultimately bring,” said Alan Keenan of the International Crisis Group.
Sirisena halted all Chinesefunded infrastructure projects when he swept to power in 2015, ousting the island’s strongman leader Mahinda Rajapakse, who had aggressively courted Beijing.
Now these projects, which included new highways, railway lines and a telecommunications tower, are back on track.
New Delhi has long been nervous of a Chinese presence at the Colombo port, a key transshipment point for Indian cargo.
Experts said India did not have deep enough pockets to take over China’s place as the country’s main financial backer.
“The new government realises its Western allies have not delivered and only China has the deep pockets to invest,” said Sri Lankan political analyst Kusal Perera.
“The government understands this and they are wooing China while keeping India on board.”
Modi will be guest of honour at a major Buddhist festival, a move seen as aimed at winning the support of the Sinhalese majority, many of whom are suspicious of India. AFP