Putrajaya ignorant of Beijing’s motive, says MP

Wong-Chen-bandar-malaysiaPETALING JAYA: Kelana Jaya MP Wong Chen has alleged that Putrajaya is ignorant of the primary motive behind Beijing’s decision to invest in Malaysia, saying this is shown in the Najib administration’s handling of the Bandar Malaysia project.

Speaking to FMT, he said China saw former US president Barrack Obama’s pursuit of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) as a move against its expansion in the Southeast Asian region and decided to invest in Malaysia in a big way as a means of fighting the threat.

With the TPPA now practically dead, he added, there was no longer much need for China to be aggressive in its investment programme.

He said Putrajaya appeared to be clueless to these facts as shown by a recent development concerning the Bandar Malaysia project.

He was referring to a report that the new consortium taking over the project may include companies that were part of the previous consortium, which failed to fulfil payment obligations.

Wong, who is a PKR member, said Putrajaya should have observed that the Chinese, who about a year ago looked set to participate in many property projects in Malaysia, were now showing a loss of interest.

“We must understand Beijing’s motivation to invest in Malaysia and build good ties with Prime Minister Najib Razak,” he said. “It all started with the TPPA.”

He spoke of China’s geopolitical ambitions.

In recent years, China has laid claim to almost the entire South China Sea according to a map it drew up in 1947. It has deployed military assets in the waters and created islands that some analysts claim serve military purposes.

The TPPA, involving Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam among 12 nations, would have given the member countries tariff advantages and preferential market access to one another, possibly diverting trade and manufacturing activities from China.

“Malaysia was key to the Chinese because of its strategic geographical location, especially its access to the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea,” Wong said.

He said China needed a land support base for logistical purposes and the Philippines and Malaysia were the only viable options.

“China’s strategy was to approach Malaysia through economic means in the form of investments in property and infrastructure projects, but Donald Trump’s election as US president and his subsequent decision to withdraw the US from the TPPA, has changed all this.

“Now China doesn’t see the need to go overboard in investing in Malaysia. At the same time, Beijing is putting in place strict capital flight control measures to protect the Chinese economy.”

Wong said projects such as the multi-billion ringgit Bandar Malaysia and the massive Forest City had nothing to do with China’s One Belt One Road (Obor) initiative and were therefore not priorities for Beijing, unlike the East Coast Rail Link project and port projects such as the expansion of the Kuantan port.

The Obor initiative has seen Beijing sign on to US$926 billion worth of projects along strategic land and sea routes, spanning over 15,000 kilometres. The projects include railway networks, highways and ports in countries such as Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan and Vietnam.

Because the property projects were not vital to the Obor initiative, Wong said, private companies eyeing property development projects outside China would face hurdles against taking money out of the country.

“This is probably why the Dalian Wanda group hasn’t even signed a memorandum of understanding to take over the Bandar Malaysia project.”

He said it would be an “absolute joke” if the Finance Ministry were to restart talks with companies that were in the previous consortium that was supposed to build Bandar Malaysia.

It was recently reported that the Dalian Wanda group, owned by China’s second richest man, Wang Jianlin, was interested in the Bandar Malaysia project.

On Tuesday, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Abdul Rahman Dahlan said Najib had indicated that Putrajaya was seeking new bids for the project and had made it clear that the new consortium could include players in the previous consortium as long as “the numbers are okay.”

Wong also said the government would do well to parcel out the Bandar Malaysia land to maximise the value of returns because there was already a glut in commercial and high-end residential properties in the Klang Valley.

Last February, the Socio-Economic Research Centre warned that the oversupply of commercial properties was expected to worsen in 2018.