China eager to work with Dr M
Envoy keen to engage with new government as soon as possible
PETALING JAYA: China has expressed its desire to work with Malaysian Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad soon, amid reports that major Chinese projects here will be reviewed or even cancelled.
“The Chinese side would like to engage with the new Government as soon as possible to further promote the cooperation between the two countries,” said Bai Tian, China’s ambassador to Malaysia.
In an e-mail interview, he said: “We are pleased to see Pakatan Harapan, led by Dr Mahathir, win the 14th General Election. We view this as the choice of the Malaysian people and we fully respect it.”
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, he pointed out, sent an immediate congratulatory message to Dr Mahathir after he was sworn in as the seventh prime minister on May 10.
It is believed the Chinese Embassy had sent a request for a meeting with Dr Mahathir but there was no response yet.
Before the May 9 vote, Dr Mahathir made policy statements that Chinese projects here would be reviewed if Pakatan Harapan won.
On Thursday, BMI Research said the RM55bil East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), awarded to China Communications Construction Company via a closed tender last year, was a project at risk of cancellation.
However, Bai Tian said “China is ready to work closely with the new government for the sustained development of our bilateral relations”.
“China is willing to make concerted efforts to further promote ChinaMalaysia ties to new heights,” he said.
On China’s views of the new Prime Minister, he said: “Dr Mahathir is a well-respected and long-time friend of the Chinese people. During his last service as Prime Minister (from 1981 to 2003), he visited China seven times and contributed to China-Malaysia relations.”
He noted during Xi Jinping’s state visit to Malaysia in 2013, the president had a separate meeting with Dr Mahathir even though the prime minister then was Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Dr Mahathir himself disclosed he had written to Xi then, suggesting that the Belt and Road Initiative, propounded by the president in 2013, should cover an overland route linking China to Europe.
In fact, China is grateful that Dr Mahathir has given Beijing support in the face of warnings by the West over the “China threat”.
Although Malaysia-China ties were established in 1974 by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, it was Dr Mahathir who eased the policy to allow direct trade with China that led to it being the largest trading partner of Malaysia.
Bai Tian also noted that after Dr Mahathir retired from office in 2003, he visited China several times and attended forums in China.
“We note after taking office as the Prime Minister again on May 10, Tun Dr Mahathir said he would mainly focus on local economic development, and the new government supports the Belt and Road Initiative.
“He also said Malaysia welcomes FDI from all countries, including that from China.
“As China opens up wider to the outside world, more and more Chinese companies will come to invest in Malaysia because of their confidence in the country,” he said.
Tun Dr Mahathir is a well-respected and longtime friend of the Chinese people. Bai Tian