The Sino-Malaysian bilateral relationship received a major boost in 2017, especially in trade and investment. This is evidenced by the fact that bilateral trade soared to a high of US$96.3 billion despite global economic turmoil.
This could be attributed to China’s “One Belt One Road” initiative. For the first time the OBOR advocacy was incorporated by the government in the 2017-18 Economic Report, arguing that the initiative would bring tremendous benefits and business opportunities to the country’s economy, including infrastructure development such as railroads, seaports and highways, as well as development in other sectors like education, housing, logistics and e-commerce.
Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) is the first such venture outside China to be jointly developed by China’s Alibaba Group and the Malaysian government, while the partnership between Proton and Geely Holding will mark a new milestone in the country’s automobile industry.
Meanwhile, the establishment of both China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park have successfully lured many strategic investors while creating numerous job opportunities for the people and catalyzing technology transfer to local companies.
Malaysian businesses big or small have benefited from such cooperation to make inroads into the enormous Chinese marketplace for their products and services. For instance, the Chinese markets of Malaysian durian and bird’s nest have expanded significantly.
Other industries such as electrical and electronics, chemicals, steel and medical equipment also hold promising potentials for new collaborations with China, while China can transfer top-end technologies in ICT, artificial intelligence, big data, cloud computing and robotics to Malaysian businesses.
The improvement in Sino-Malaysian relationship also has spillover effects on the whole Asean region as we can help strengthen Asean-China trade relationship further and benefit from the Asean–China Free Trade Agreement.
Malaysia’s business-friendly policies, strategic geographical location, multicultural human resources and long-standing relationship with China should form a synergy to further fortify the relationship between our two countries.
The same factors have also attracted FDIs from countries like Japan, South Korea and the United States.
Unfortunately, Chinese investments have since become a political issue constantly exploited by race-based political parties or organizations accusing them of posing potential threats to the country’s security and sovereignty.
Nevertheless, a recent Merdeka Center survey showed that about 70% of Malaysians still viewed Chinese investments positively.
We cannot deny that continuous socioeconomic development and innovation are key elements that will build a powerful, democratic and modernized nation. As such, politicizing foreign investments and economic development is outright unwise.
Do bear in mind that openness arising from political stability and healthy competition augurs well to the country’s continued economic expansion, and political parties should offer constructive and far-sighted strategies to win the hearts of voters instead of manipulating the issue of foreign investments.