BEIJING: The “One Belt, One Road” (Obor) initiative by China is a joint development plan with participating countries and not a strategy to dominate, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
He said he now has a clearer perspective of the development plan and supported it as it would benefit the country.
“We feel that the Obor initiative is not a domination plan by China, with countries ending up being controlled by China,” he told reporters at the end of his five-day visit to China to attend the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF), which ended yesterday.
The international forum was attended by 37 world leaders and 5,000 representatives from 150 countries.
Mahathir also admitted that he had initially thought that Obor was China’s attempt to dominate Southeast Asia as the trade passage for the project includes the South China Sea and the Straits of Melaka.
However, during the forum, he saw that the initiative was a cooperative effort to develop participating countries via infrastructure development and funding from banks.
“Previously, there were other development plans by developed countries to create a world without borders and free trade, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
“They (the developed countries) made the proposals and asked us to accept them.
“This is not like that. The forum attendees are from small countries and they are sitting with China, which has a 1.4 billion population.
“They sit together, at the same level, and talk about how to develop infrastructure projects.”
Mahathir said the forum was attended by senior leaders from all around the world, including Spain, Italy, and even Britain, which had sent the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond.
The prime minister said the views of the other countries were taken into account in the infrastructure initiative.
This was evident in the joint communique issued after the leaders’ roundtable meeting in Yangi Lake yesterday.
“I believe that this was a very successful trip,” he said.
During his visit, Mahathir also met China’s President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.
Asked whether Malaysia would be receiving more investments related to Obor after the forum, he hoped that would happen but said the country should make it easier for investments to come in from China and other countries.
Mahathir wants one-stop centre for investments
Mahathir said Chinese investors had expressed their wish for a one-stop centre (OSC) to be set up to make it easier for investment-related matters.
The prime minister said he has requested for this request to be expedited.
This is because investment-related transactions may be rather complex, involving trips to 20 different places just for approvals, he said.
Mahathir said the officer to be in charge of this OSC should also be given the authority to make decisions.
“I am confident that if we do this (set up the OSC), investments will be pouring in,” he said.
Mahathir and his wife, Dr Siti Hasmah Mohamed Ali, return to Malaysia today.