By Dennis Ignatius
Prime Minister Najib Razak is currently in China to attend the “New Silk Road Summit” hosted by President Xi Jiping. The summit, which began on Friday, brings together 28 heads of state/government and representatives from over 80 countries to discuss President Xi Jiping’s flagship “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) initiative.
While the attention of many Malaysians will understandably be focused on how the unravelling of the Bandar Malaysia project will play out and what it might mean for the future of Malaysia-China relations, something equally important will be taking place with much less fanfare: the meeting between Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai (who is accompanying the Prime Minister) and Song Tao, head of the International Liaison Department of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CCP).
The minister, who is also president of the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), was quoted in a local report as saying that he was keen to strengthen the MCA’s cooperation with the CCP in matters involving “culture, education and cadre training” as well as “extending such cooperation to the business front.”
Taking advantage of the burgeoning ties between Malaysia and China, the CCP has quietly sought to augment state-to-state relations with Malaysia with even closer party-to-party ties with the MCA.
The MCA, for its part, has eagerly reciprocated the CCP’s overtures in the hope that China’s political endorsement and support might help it regain the confidence of Malaysian Chinese voters who, in the last elections, punished the party severely for being too subservient to Umno.
It is nothing short of rank dependence upon a foreign power to achieve domestic political goals and is a measure of just how desperate they are.
In keeping with this new relationship, CCP representatives now attend the MCA’s annual meetings while PRC diplomats increasingly accompany MCA politicians when they visit their constituencies or meet with local Chinese trade and business associations.
The PRC diplomatic mission here openly encourages Malaysian Chinese to support both the MCA and the Barisan Nasional (BN) government. Indeed, the PRC ambassador is on record as saying that Malaysian Chinese must support the MCA if they wish to have a voice in Cabinet, ensure strong ties between Malaysia and China and benefit from PRC projects and business opportunities.
Such open interference in domestic politics is, of course, contrary to both diplomatic practice as well as China’s oft-repeated promise of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries. It would never have been tolerated in the past but such is China’s influence in Malaysia today that the government now turns a blind eye to it.
The MCA is also the main propagandist for the OBOR initiative through its Belt and Road Centre (Mbrace) and does more to promote it in Malaysia than even the Chinese embassy itself. At last count, the MCA helped recruit 46 Chinese guilds and associations to endorse the OBOR initiative and mobilise local support for it.
In addition, the MCA has set up a PRC Affairs Committee to promote relations with China, prompting one opposition MP to remark, with some justification, that the MCA appears to be “acting as an agent of China.”
Cooperation and fraternal ties between the CCP and the MCA now seem set to deepen yet further with the inclusion of cadre training. While details are still sketchy, it is well known that cadre training is an essential part of the CCP’s indoctrination methodology.
The CCP is thought to have more than 2900 cadre training schools at all levels where CCP cadres are trained in the party’s ideological struggles and strategies, grassroots mobilisation, and economic and social policies as well as management and administration.
In recent years, the CCP has begun inviting foreign political parties with which it wishes to establish close ties to participate in their cadre training programmes. While the curriculum for foreign participants is slightly different, the objective of influencing and indoctrinating foreign political parties remains the same. Over the longer term, the CCP hopes to build a core of foreign cadres who are sympathetic to, and supportive of, the CCP and its foreign policy and ideological goals.
Given the nature of the CCP’s cadre training programme, one has to wonder why the MCA would want to discuss cadre training with the CCP. And is it consistent with our sovereignty and independence to allow a foreign political party, and a communist one at that, such ingress into our domestic political process?
A threat to our political process
Not since the now defunct Malayan Communist Party (MCP) has a local political party chosen to so thoroughly align itself with a foreign political party and promote the policies of a foreign government in such a manner.
To be sure, China is Malaysia’s most important political and economic partner and we ought to go all out to develop close and mutually beneficial relations with it.
At the end of the day, however, relations with China, as with other countries, is about contributing to national development and strengthening national resilience. Allowing the CCP to embed itself into our political framework undermines our nation’s security and compromises our political process; it should alarm all right thinking Malaysians.
Dennis Ignatius is an FMT reader.
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