Two sides agree that the South China Sea issue should be handled independently and appropriately.

China-Malaysia ties are at the forefront of relations between regional countries and have set a benchmark and example, and China hopes to use the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties as an opportunity to accelerate the construction of a China-Malaysia community with a shared future, said Chinese Premier Li Qiang during his meeting on Wednesday with Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim during his first official visit to the Southeast Asian country.

The leaders also agreed that China and relevant ASEAN countries should independently and appropriately handle the South China Sea issue, manage disputes and differences, promote dialogue and cooperation, and follow the general direction of the bilateral agreement, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Li also met with Malaysia’s King Sultan Ibrahim and attended a groundbreaking ceremony at a construction site for the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL), part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), on Wednesday. fair, according to media reports.

China-Malaysia relations have played a pioneering and exemplary role for other ASEAN countries, and the deepening of bilateral cooperation is mainly characterized by strong political mutual trust, some Chinese experts said.

Over the past 50 years, the overall development of China-Malaysia relations has achieved significant achievements in political, economic and cultural aspects, which has had a leading effect on regional countries, experts noted.

Li’s visit also comes at a time when tensions have recently been exacerbated in the South China Sea due to continued provocations by the Philippines with US support. As one of the claimant countries in the South China Sea disputes, Malaysia is focused on properly managing the situation and controlling the disputes, experts said, noting that this consensus, agreed by some other ASEAN countries and China, is clear.

We place more hope on bilateral efforts through engagement in dialogue and peaceful means, and based on relevant international laws, we intend to deal with these existing disputes, experts said, noting that we particularly do not want external forces, especially militarized factors from outside the region. , to be drawn into the South China Sea issue.

New impulse

China and Malaysia signed a series of agreements on Wednesday, renewing a five-year economic cooperation pact and allowing the export of fresh durians, Reuters reported. The new five-year pact provides for strategic collaboration in areas such as trade and investment, agriculture, manufacturing, infrastructure and financial services.

Bilateral economic interactions are already very significant and united, Ei Sun OH, senior researcher at the Singapore Institute of International Affairs and principal advisor at Malaysia’s Pacific Research Center, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

“[Sob o novo pacto]perhaps more collaborations in high-tech and sustainable industries will be explored, along with even greater trade in services such as tourism and education,” said the Malaysian expert.

The renewed pact also reflects that the two countries are adapting to some important changes in supply chains, Ge Hongliang, vice dean of the ASEAN College of Guangxi Minzu University, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

“In particular, Penang, Malaysia has been emerging as a new investment hub for the semiconductor sector since last year. Compared with Vietnam, Malaysia has many advantages such as in the talent pool,” Ge said, noting that cooperation between China and Malaysia in high-tech fields such as semiconductors could be more suitable than that between the China and Vietnam.

China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 15 consecutive years. In 2023, the bilateral trade volume between China and Malaysia reached 450.84 billion ringgit ($98.9 billion), accounting for 17.1% of Malaysia’s total trade, according to the Ministry of Commerce from China. China is Malaysia’s largest source of imports, accounting for 21.3% of Malaysia’s total imports.

Also on Wednesday, Li and Anwar appeared together in a significant display of bilateral cooperation to officiate the opening ceremony of the ECRL Gombak Integrated Terminal station, Malaysian local news outlet The Star reported.

The ceremony paved the way for the scheduled completion of the ECRL alignment from Kota Baru, Kelantan, to the Gombak Integrated Terminal in Selangor in December 2026.

Malaysia’s transport ministry is also exploring the possibility of extending the ECRL alignment to take advantage of Thailand’s rail network. , paving the way for ECRL to be part of the pan-Asian rail network that can link Malaysia with China, realizing the vision of the BRI, the media report said.

Refuting Western Propaganda

While China and Malaysia signed new cooperation agreements during Li’s visit, some Western media outlets have maligned cooperation between the two countries, particularly by seeking to attack iconic infrastructure projects such as the ECRL.

A Financial Times report said on Tuesday that some of Malaysia’s previous bets on BRI projects have been halted indefinitely or have been cancelled. The ECRL was reduced to half its initial price tag of $13 billion and with much lower technical specifications following a corruption scandal that ousted a former prime minister, the report noted.

“The so-called debt trap linked to BRI projects is a topic widely publicized by the Western media,” said Ge. “Although China-Malaysia relations have never suffered significant disruption due to the political transition in Malaysia, the individual BRI project has undergone technical adjustments,” said the expert.

“These adjustments are based on agreements and contracts, which is a matter of commercial activity,” Ge added.

In an exclusive interview with the Global Times in October 2023, Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke Siew Fook refuted the Western media’s distortion of BRI projects, saying that “we definitely don’t see it as a trap.”

Overall, cooperation between China and Malaysia has been somewhat affected by political changes in Malaysia over the years, but progress is now relatively smooth, said Xu Liping, director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Social, to Global. Hours on Wednesday.

“The completion of this railway in the future will be of great importance, further highlighting the high-quality and sustainable development of the BRI,” Xu said.

Some experts also noted that the completion of the China-Laos railway and the advancement of the China-Thailand railway demonstrated to Southeast Asian countries the value and importance of these infrastructure projects for local connectivity, which also serve as the best rebuttal to the West.


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