Dance with China, but we must lead, says Razak Baginda

Political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda launched his new book ‘Dragon Diplomacy’ yesterday. (Facebook pic)

PETALING JAYA: Chinese-backed infrastructure projects must be viewed objectively to ensure that the mega projects are viable and will serve Malaysia’s interests, says political analyst Abdul Razak Baginda.

Speaking to FMT in conjunction with the launch of his new book “Dragon Diplomacy”, he said China’s partners always had a choice when it comes to “dancing with China”.

The countries must know what they want, he said. China’s prospective partners, including Malaysia, must ensure that China fits into their plans rather than the other way around.

“People tend to pin the blame on China, I don’t want to be involved in a blame game. It’s like a bank, you can’t blame a bank when they offer you an interest-free housing loan for a second or third house. At the end of the day you can say no, if you do not plan on buying another house, why take the loan?” he said.

He said it was natural for China to want to expand outside of its vast borders through economic means as internally, the market was saturated. “When they come, we must look at our plans and see how China fits into it.”

In this respect, he said, the respective federal or state administrations must undertake feasibility studies to ensure the projects are viable as an infrastructure and as a business.

“Are we not going to be burdened? Does the end justify the means? At the end of the day, we want to provide good infrastructure at a good cost to the people. What is the point if it is too expensive?”

Asked about the East Coast Rail Link, Razak said he was not against the project noting that many agreed on the need for a link from the East Coast to the West Coast of Peninsular Malaysia.

“There is a rationale but what are we doing to fulfill this dream? Are we killing a fly with a sledgehammer? That is what we need to study.”

He said it was important to view Chinese-backed projects objectively and put things into perspective, citing the recent criticism of China when it came to security concerns and technology.

“There have also been cases of data leaks by other organisations like Facebook. It works both ways.”

Malaysia, he said, has always been pragmatic in dealing with other countries and getting the best benefits. “It’s not about China or the US but knowing what we want.”