14/04/2024 01:17 PM

By Voon Miaw Ping

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 (Bernama) -- Malaysia and China must continue to leverage on their respective advantages and mutual support as they pursue closer relations amidst challenges in the evolving regional and global landscape. 

While the first 50 years had stood witness to the many successes made by the two countries bilaterally, the future trajectory of Kuala Lumpur-Beijing relations hinge on continued engagement and efforts to promote sustainable development and prosperity for both nations.

Deputy Dean of China-ASEAN Research Institute at the Guangxi University China, Assoc. Prof Luo Chuanyu, said Malaysia and China cannot be satisfied with the achievements made in their traditional cooperation as collaborations in new and emerging sectors should be intensified to propel prospects of this strategic partnerships ahead.

“Chinese President Xi Jinping attaches great importance to China-Malaysia relations and has met with Malaysian leaders many times over the past years.

“After Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim took office, he emphasised that cooperation with China is the priority of his government,” he told Bernama in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Malaysia-China bilateral relations this year.

He noted that Anwar, in reaffirming Malaysia’s support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and commitment to further promote trade cooperation with China in building a more stable and resilient industrial and supply chain, has sent a positive signal to Beijing on the future of the relationship.

He was optimistic that by leveraging their respective strengths in the multifaceted relations, and exploring new opportunities for collaboration, the two countries can further deepen their partnership and play a pivotal role in fostering regional stability and prosperity.


Maximising Economic Potential 


The economic field has been the highlight of Malaysia-China bilateral cooperation. In 2023, total trade volume reached RM450.84 billion (US$98.80 billion), making China Malaysia’s largest trading partner for the 15th consecutive year.

As of February 2024, total trade volume between the two nations has reached an impressive US$15.52 billion.

Hence, Luo said Malaysia and China should aim to further maximise their potential of economic and trade cooperation, including by fully utilising the bilateral and multilateral trade platforms such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

“On the one hand, the dividends from regional free trade agreements need to be used. Recently, RCEP and CPTPP have come into effect in Malaysia, providing more support for Malaysia's export-oriented economic development,” he said.

He said both sides also must focus on innovation in specific fields, particularly in digital infrastructure development and digital economy to enhance the depth and breadth of collaboration.

“While the traditional areas, such as trade, investment, tourism, and infrastructure, still share the major proportion, the digital, sustainable, and biology will become hot spots in the coming years,” he said. 

Citing the East Coast Railway Line (ECRL), Luo said the project is an example of a successful cooperation experience for the two countries and such collaborations should be continued moving forward. 

“At the same time, with the help of a solid foundation for transportation infrastructure construction, building e-commerce basements along the ECRL could be taken advantage of in the future, which could facilitate online shopping by providing a convenient way for shoppers; then the connection between the physical stores and online trailers will become more tightly,” he said.

He said besides laying the crucial physical infrastructure, both sides also could focus on constructing internet infrastructure and supporting facilities, and accelerating the efficiency of logistics systems.

He also underscored the needs for both countries to also develop big data technologies to increase international trade, as well as to promote high quality development and investments.


Investing In People-to-People Relations


Although high-level political exchanges have played a crucial role in shaping Malaysia-China bilateral relations, with leaders from both countries emphasising cooperation and mutual support, Luo said the role of people-to-people exchanges is also significant.

He said it is essential for future generations to uphold the values of dialogue, cooperation, and mutual respect, ensuring that the bilateral relationship continues to thrive in an ever-changing global landscape.

“For 50 years, a good relationship between people of the two countries has contributed significantly to the bilateral relations in each area.

“Building on these great achievements, both sides must extend the people-to-people exchange to a larger scale,” he said. 

Considering the advantages of Malaysian business professionals, such as a large number of talents and high-quality education, he also proposed that Malaysian and Chinese educational institutions can work together to explore short-term talent training and long-term professional settings for the e-commerce economy.

Those cooperation models could be spread to other Southeast Asian countries, he added.

At the business level, Luo posited that there is potential for mutual exchanges and collaboration between local governments and enterprises from both nations in the realm of halal.

“They can also take advantage of the opportunity to strengthen cooperation between China and Arab countries to highlight the bridge platform effect and provide Malaysia with opportunities to foster cooperation and expanding into new markets,” he said.

Malaysia established formal diplomatic relations with China on May 31, 1974, making it the first ASEAN country to do so and essentially changing the geopolitical situation in Southeast Asia at that time.

Both countries later elevated their relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) in Oct 2013 following a visit by President Xi to Kuala Lumpur.









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