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Majid:Mahathir views China-Malaysia relationship with new and rational angles

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Majid:Mahathir views China-Malaysia relationship with new and rational angles Columnists

Mahathir views China-Malaysia relationship with new and rational angles

Editor’s Note: Abdul Majid Ahmad Khan is President of the Malaysia-China Friendship Association and former Malaysian Ambassador to China. 
Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad offered his view on the issue of the South China Sea. This area now, is not in same position as its previous situation, during his first term as prime minister (1982-2003). Then it was rather calm and devoid of tension. Today it has become an area filled with big power rivalry.
PM Mahathir from his recent comments wishes to see the South China Sea as a sea of cooperation and connectivity and not confrontation or conflict. Outstanding issues and differences should be discussed through dialogue and consultations and not military showmanship. The interests of smaller and weaker states must be respected and protected. 
In this context, PM Mahathir's approach is to avoid the deepening entanglement of smaller states in the big powers competition. PM Mahathir places great emphasis on regional peace, stability and prosperity. He is of the view that China has a big role to play in this respect given its stature and influence.

Malaysia’s policy with both China and Japan is not a zero sum game
PM Mahathir's recent visits to Japan should be viewed in a historical context. During his earlier term as prime minister, he launched the "The Look East Policy", reflecting his conviction that Japan is the right country Malaysia should emulate given their economic achievements and positive cultural attributes. 
Japan, similar to what China is embarking on now, has played an important role in the industrial development of countries in Southeast Asia. The transfer of technology, capital and management skills from Japan was responsible for the emergence of the "Four Tigers". Malaysia too had benefited from Japan’s assistance.
Subsequently in the 1990s when China opened its doors and showed positive results from its new reform policy, Malaysia began developing strong economic and trade links with China. Such cooperation now covers infrastructure, finance, technology, e commerce, industrial parks, agriculture, automotive and tourism. Like Japan before, China too has much to contribute to Malaysia.
Hence, Malaysia’s policy should not be construed as a zero sum game. Rather, Malaysia recognizes that both Japan and China have their respective strengths.
Fundamental and traditional friendship between Malaysia and China remains strong
PM Mahathir’s current visit to China has generated widespread interest not only in Malaysia and China but elsewhere too. It is not because Dr. Mahathir has not been to China but on the contrary he has been described as an old friend of China. During 22 years as the Prime Minister he contributed much to Sino-Malaysian relations. He has been instrumental in encouraging China to play an active regional role through the ASEAN.
However following his historic victory at the recent Malaysia General Elections, and return to power as the 7th Prime Minister at the age of 92, as well as his fresh views on Malaysia-China relations and the region, it has triggered new interests and anxiety.
But PM Mahathir in several of his interviews had expressed the importance of the China-Malaysia relations and has pledged to bring the relationship to a higher level. He empathized that he welcomes investment from China which should be mutually beneficial in areas with value-added advantages to Malaysia. 
There are new areas that could be explored and these include technology, e-commerce, and automotive. Despite differences on how some of the projects should be implemented, the fundamental and traditional friendship remains strong. PM Mahathir's current visit reaffirms this and as an outcome we are confident, the trust and friendship built over the years will be further consolidated.   
( CGTN, SilkRoad.my 18 August 2018) 

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