China-Malaysia ties carry huge opportunities

Yang Han in Kuala Lumpur

China-Malaysia ties carry huge opportunities

There are huge opportunities for Malaysia and China to enhance cooperation as the two countries celebrate this year’s 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, according to a senior Malaysian official.

“In our nation-building journey for shared prosperity, we recognize China as a reliable friend and partner,” Malaysia's Deputy Minister of Energy Transition and Water Transformation Akmal Nasrullah Mohd Nasir told a forum in Kuala Lumpur on May 7.

Akmal, who delivered the keynote address at the Malaysia-China Commemorative Forum as a representative of Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Fadillah Yusof, said the bilateral relationship is built on a time-honored history of mutual respect and collaboration.

He noted the ample opportunities for both sides to consolidate and further expand the excellent bilateral ties.

According to Akmal, the Malaysia Madani economic framework introduced in 2023 to promote inclusive and sustainable development shares the same common values and attributes of the concept of a community with a shared future for mankind proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.

Noting that 2024 also marks the “Year of China-Malaysia Friendship”, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Ouyang Yujing said the relations between the two countries are always at the forefront of China’s relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

On May 31, 1974, Malaysia became the first founding member of ASEAN to establish diplomatic relations with China. It was also among the first countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

“In 1974, the China-Malaysia bilateral trade volume was less than $0.2 billion and last year’s figure surpassed $190 billion, which is 950 times more than that of 1974,” said Ouyang.

He noted that China has been Malaysia’s biggest trading partner for 15 consecutive years while Malaysia remains China’s second-largest trading partner and largest source of imports in ASEAN.

“I believe that both countries can continuously materialize these concepts for the benefit of its people,” said Akmal.

The forum — themed “Malaysia and China: Celebrating 50 Years of Friendship and Cooperation, Towards a Better Future Together’ — was co-organized by China Daily, Kuala Lumpur-based think tank KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, and the Malaysia-China Business Council.

It brought together government, business, academic, and think tank leaders to discuss how to deepen the bilateral partnership and the future of Asia. Nearly 300 delegates from both countries attended the forum to discuss a wide range of topics, from entrepreneurship to green growth and the digital economy.

Bilateral relations were elevated in 2013 to a comprehensive strategic partnership. Last year President Xi and visiting Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reached a consensus on building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future.

Ouyang noted that high-level leadership is the fundamental safeguard in fostering development in China-Malaysia relations. He added that comprehensive and practical cooperation is the driving force for upgrading bilateral relations in all fields.

People-to-people bonds are the underlying force enabling enriched relations, said Ouyang, noting that the mutual visa-free entry policy since the end of last year has seen the number of Chinese tourists to Malaysia rise to over 270,000 per month.

In his welcome speech, Zhou Li, deputy editor-in-chief of China Daily Group, said the tales of the legendary Chinese explorer Zheng He and his visits to Malacca are etched in the collective memory of China and Malaysia, symbolizing the deep-rooted exchanges.

“Our steadfast cooperation, aligned with initiatives for global development, security, and civilization, assures that the fruits of China-Malaysia relations will continue to flourish for the betterment of our peoples,” said Zhou.

Michael Yeoh, president of the KSI Strategic Institute for Asia Pacific, said the rise of the Chinese economy will benefit the countries of Southeast Asia and the Global South.

“Bilateral relations will continue to strengthen and include new growth areas such as green energy and digital technology,” said Yeoh, noting that China has been Malaysia’s biggest trading partner.

Goh Tian Chuan, exco-chairman of the Malaysia-China Business Council (MCBC), said the consensus on building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future has created new momentum for developing bilateral ties.

Goh, whose speech was delivered by MCBC Executive Director Alvin Tee, said the council will continue to work with its partners in China and Malaysia to explore and promote higher and more diversified cooperation, making contributions to the economies and businesses of both countries.

Melaka Governor Mohd Ali Rustam attended the forum and presented the Special Malaysia-China Business Excellence Awards.