KUALA LUMPUR: China’s ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian is happy with Mahathir Mohamad’s government, saying he does not see any anti-China sentiment.
He told the South China Morning Post (SCMP) that he was heartened by overtures to China by Mahathir, contrary to speculation that the prime minister would take a hawkish stance towards Beijing.
Bilateral ties, he said, were unlikely to be affected by the change in Malaysia’s political leadership.
In fact, Bai Tian said, initial preparations were underway for Mahathir to visit Beijing. However, they only expect him to come after the 100-day period is over. The PH government had pledged certain reforms within 100 days of coming to power.
“Today’s China is even more important than the China during Mahathir’s first term in office. I do believe Mahathir will visit China in the near future,” Bai Tian told SCMP on the sidelines of the opening ceremony of Alibaba Groups’s Malaysia office on June 18.
The envoy said Mahathir would probably meet Prime Minister Li Keqiang on the sidelines of the East Asia Summit forum to be held in Singapore in November.
Asked about Mahathir’s call for a number of Beijing-led infrastructure projects – such as the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) – signed by the Najib Razak government to be reviewed, Bai Tian said it was important not to “miss the forest for the trees”.
He noted that three Chinese companies invested US$300 million in Malaysia just weeks after the May 9 polls, and that China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years.
He said Chinese companies still had confidence in Malaysia, adding that the ECRL review was “not a problem”. “Of course, we will be keeping our fingers crossed for the outcome.”
Bai Tian told SCMP the Chinese government had always emphasised that Chinese companies operating overseas should “follow the rules and laws” of both China and their host countries, while also operating on the basis of “mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit”.
He hoped the PH government would “work even harder to boost the confidence of Chinese companies in Malaysia and invite more foreign direct investment from China”.