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Malaysia bolsters China ties with transport ministerí»s week-long visit

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Malaysia bolsters China ties with transport ministerí»s week-long visit M'sia News

During the visit he will meet his Chinese counterpart Li Xiaopeng, as well as senior executives from the country’s corporations. He is also expected to request more direct flights from China’s second-tier cities to those in Malaysia in an attempt to boost tourism and cooperation.
Loke is the latest Malaysian minister to visit Beijing after a series of high-level delegations last year which included Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s first visit after his electoral win in May, as well as visits from deputy international trade and industry minister Ong Kian Ming and elder statesman Lim Kit Siang. In July, a delegation from the Communist Party of China also paid Malaysia a visit.
During these visits, cooperation and collaboration were the main topics of discussion, as well as the future of a host of Chinese-backed infrastructure projects agreed upon by the previous Malaysian government.
When Mahathir’s Pakatan Harapan took over following May’s elections, it suspended several of these megaprojects, citing high costs and depleted national coffers.
One of the projects, the East Coast Rail Link, has been a particularly contentious point of debate, although the Malaysian government announced earlier this month that the multibillion-dollar project could continue if costs were lowered.
Oh Ei Sun, senior fellow at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs, said that Loke’s visit could be viewed as “one of the first steps in the ‘rewarming’ of the bilateral ties after a brief chill”.
“The direct flights, for example, are crucial for developing tourism, especially in my home state of Sabah,” he said.
Diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China, which will enter their 45th year in 2019, were rumoured to be turning frosty last year when the Pakatan Harapan coalition accused the then-incumbent Barisan Nasional of ‘selling the country’ to Beijing.
After they swept to victory in the polls, Malaysia suspended some US$22 billion worth of China-backed megaprojects, stating that they were too expensive.
But since Mahathir’s inaugural visit to Beijing, the two nations have showed an eagerness to meet each other halfway and resolve any outstanding disputes.

(Source: South China Morning Post, 16 Jan 2019)

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