Dr M wants to strengthen ties with China further

PUTRAJAYA: Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad (pic) said Thursday (Aug 16) that he will strengthen bilateral relations with China in his upcoming visit there, citing historical bonds between the two countries and close cooperation during his previous 22-year stint in office.

In an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua ahead of his visit starting from Friday (Aug 17), Dr Mahathir said the relationship with China was "very important" and he wanted to further strengthen relations between China and Malaysia by this visit.

"Of course to learn about Chinese program or plans for South-East Asia, including Malaysia," he said.

Dr Mahathir, during his first stint as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, visited China multiple times.

This will be his first official visit to China since he assumed office in May.

"During my 22 years of tenure as prime minister, I had pushed for close relations with China," he said.

The 93-year-old made a political comeback in May after leading the Pakatan Harapan coalition to victory the general election.

He said the new government certainly wanted "close relations" with China and would look for China's support for the recovery of Malaysia's finances.

He said his view on China remained unchanged and he believed the two countries would solve any differences amicably.

In an interview with Chinese news agency Xinhua ahead of his visit starting from Friday (Aug 17), Dr Mahathir said the relationship with China was "very important" and he wanted to further strengthen relations between China and Malaysia by this visit.

The Prime Minister said his government welcomed foreign investment, primarily those that could "bring in capital, technologies" and set up plants to produce goods for the domestic market or for export.

Malaysia needed foreign investment in the area of new technologies and manufacturing to increase employment opportunities especially among university graduates, he said.

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and other Chinese technology companies are increasing their presence in Malaysia, bringing in know-how like mobile payment systems and e-wallet services.

Describing China's development in the past several decades as "something of a miracle," Dr Mahathir said China had developed into "the centre of manufacturing for the whole world".

"They have been able to acquire or develop their own technologies which is on par with the technologies available in other parts of the world.

"They have even gone so far as being able to put man in space, that is a remarkable achievement because it was done in very quick time," he said.

He also said that Malaysia had benefited from China's development.

"China's growth is much welcome to us, because it means that Chinese are richer. Malaysia is a trading nation, and we like to have our partners rich," he noted.

"China's consumption will need supplies from outside, and Malaysia can provide some of the needs for the new rich people in China," he added.

China has become Malaysia's largest trading partner since 2009, and the largest source of foreign direct investment in manufacturing over the past two years.

Dr Mahathir, who had on several occasions stated his support for the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative since assuming office, told Xinhua that he had suggested building a special railway between China and Europe along the ancient Silk Road.

The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, proposed in 2013, aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road routes.

"China needs the world as its market. China also needs to have imports from the rest of the world," he said.

The Prime Minister said he also attached importance to closer people-to-people ties between the two countries.

"I think Chinese tourists will come in great numbers to Malaysia," he said, noting that "there is a historical link between China and Malaysia".

He also brought up the great Chinese navigator Zheng He's (1371-1433) visits to Malaysia during the Ming Dynasty, saying Zheng and his big fleet came to Malaysia to establish diplomatic relations and peaceful ties instead of conquest.

Dr Mahathir said it was very important to maintain regional peace and stability, which was key to propelling prosperity and people's well-being in the region.

"So for Malaysia, we look to China to help maintain peace in this region," he said, "China will play a big role because it is a powerful country."

Source: Xinhua