Too good to be true?

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

state­ment al­lud­ing to pro­tect­ing lo­cal Chi­nese in the face of the Red Shirt rally, this pre­sented an awk­ward sit­u­a­tion for many Malaysian Chi­nese. Hav­ing a for­eign en­tity speak up for my rights made me rather in­dig­nant at this ges­ture.

First, the no­tion that the re­la­tion­ship with China will draw at­ten­tion to the rights of eth­nic Chi­nese at home al­ready takes a rather nar­row-minded view. If we were con­cerned about mi­nor­ity rights, we should also be look­ing out for the in­ter­ests of all mi­nori­ties in­clud­ing the orang asli, In­di­ans and in­dige­nous peo­ple of Sabah and Sarawak.

Sec­ond, China has faced in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism over its fail­ure to promote good gov­er­nance and hu­man rights in coun­tries it has in­vested heav­ily in, in­clud­ing sev­eral coun­tries in Africa. In the past, its pol­icy of non-in­ter­fer­ence in do­mes­tic pol­i­tics – and hence also its look­ing past dis­mal hu­man rights prac­tices within those coun­tries – lent weight to the ar­gu­ment that China was only in­ter­ested in eco­nomic re­turns and geopo­lit­i­cal self-in­ter­est.

Of course, there are al­ways counter ar­gu­ments, one of which is that China has in fact con­trib­uted to devel­op­ment aid for health and ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tives, apart from in­fras­truc­tural projects, in poor coun­tries.

A study by AidData, an or­gan­i­sa­tion spe­cial­is­ing in global devel­op­ment aid re­search, stated that Chi­nese aid is strongly ori­ented to­wards poorer coun­tries. But Malaysia is ap­par­ently no longer stuck in the mid­dle-in­come trap, ac­cord­ing to Pe­mandu (Per­for­mance Man­age­ment and De­liv­ery Unit), where Malaysia is re­port­edly only 15% away from the high-in­come econ­omy bench­mark.

But the main ques­tions that all Malaysians should be ask­ing the gov­ern­ment should have much more to do with the wel­fare of the na­tion as a whole, not nit­pick­ing about which eth­nic com­mu­nity is go­ing to ben­e­fit more out of this.

For in­stance, how might do­mes­tic eco­nomic pol­icy change as a re­sult of Chi­nese state-owned en­ter­prises flock­ing the mar­ket? Most of the 14 deals signed are with Chi­nese SOEs, and this will most cer­tainly have an im­pact on our pub­lic pro­cure­ment pol­icy. Based on the deals, it looks like the gov­ern­ment will be award­ing pro­cure­ment con­tracts to for­eign Chi­nese com­pa­nies as op­posed to lo­cal com­pa­nies. If the se­lec­tion is done based on merit and qual­ity, then well and good.

In fact, one of the most con­tro­ver­sial chap­ters in the Trans Pa­cific Part­ner­ship Agree­ment (TPPA) that Malaysia signed ear­lier this year was pre­cisely that of pub­lic pro­cure­ment. Malaysia suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated that a sub­stan­tial por­tion of gov­ern­ment pro­cure­ment would be ex­clu­sively for bu­mipu­tra con­trac­tors, to be low­ered over time. Are we in fact mak­ing ex­cep­tions for main­land Chi­nese com­pa­nies?

Fur­ther, will these new deals be sub­ject to pro­vi­sions un­der the TPPA, par­tic­u­larly those re­lated to gov­er­nance of pro­cure­ment – will the pro­cure­ment pro­cesses be non-dis­crim­i­na­tory, stan­dard­ised and trans­par­ent? Will there be open and com­pet­i­tive ten­ders? Will the firms be sub­ject to do­mes­tic re­view pro­ce­dures un­der a to-be-es­tab­lished pro­cure­ment re­view author­ity?

Sec­ond, how will this re­la­tion­ship change Malaysia’s geopo­lit­i­cal po­si­tion­ing vis-à-vis South China Sea? Will this in­flu­ence Malaysia’s voice in sid­ing with China against its neigh­bour­ing Asean coun­tries over any sea and land dis­pute that takes place? In fact, would this bi­lat­eral re­la­tion­ship with China af­fect re­gional trade agree­ments like the Asean Free Trade Area

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