Taking partnership forward
2017-08-28, THO XIN YI

Q: How have bilateral relations between Malaysia and China benefited Malaysia over the years?

A: Bilateral relations grew significantly and substantially since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1974.

In 2013, these relations were elevated from “strategic cooperation” to “comprehensive strategic partnership”. For me, this move signaled a new level of bilateral cooperation and engagement.

The multifaceted aspect of Malaysia-China ties has ensured that the lines of communication and dialogue remain open.

The late (Malaysian prime minister) Tun Abdul Razak went to Beijing 43 years ago for a mission which he described as “a journey of goodwill and friendship to sow the seeds of mutual understanding between Malaysia and China”.

Looking back, his vision has become a reality as the friendship between Malaysia and China is at its best in history.

The strength of the relations is a direct result of the long-standing commitment of successive leadership, both in Malaysia and China.

The mutual trust that was built back in 1974 led both countries to explore many cooperative endeavors for mutual benefit.

As a consequence, diplomatic relations have prospered, with a robust exchange of visits between both countries, including at the highest level.

During the meeting between Prime Minister Najib Razak and Chinese President Xi Jinping in May 2017 in Beijing, both leaders agreed that Kuala Lumpur and Beijing should continue to communicate through all available channels and platforms.

Q: Foreign direct investment is key for Malaysia’s development. How does the government balance between attracting FDI from China and protecting the interests of locals?

A: Malaysia is shifting away from a commodity-driven economy to one that is industrial and innovation-driven.

In 2016, China became Malaysia’s No 1 investor in the manufacturing sector.

Besides China, Malaysia has been actively engaging with multilateral and regional free trade agreements.

To create quality and high-income jobs for locals, it is important to attract investments — particularly in the new growth areas in both manufacturing and services sectors, such as emerging technologies and high technology, as well as capital-intensive, high value-added, knowledge-based, skills-intensive and export-oriented areas.

China’s participation in these strategic projects is in line with Malaysia’s aim to be a high-income nation by 2020.

Collaboration between Chinese and Malaysian companies will move Malaysian companies up the local value chain in key segments of the industry in sectors such as metal, chemical/petrochemical and electric and electronics, information and communications technology, big data analytics, design and development, e-commerce, and the Internet of Things.

Malaysia’s strategies such as the 11th Malaysia Plan are in line with China’s Outbound Investment Strategy, which focuses on building infrastructure, construction, logistics, transportation and energy, and other new developments of emerging markets.

Q: People-to-people exchange is an important part of both countries’ bilateral ties. Malaysia introduced lenient visa requirements for Chinese visitors in 2015. Will there be a reciprocal visa policy for Malaysians?

A: The governments of Malaysia and China signed the Partial Abolition of Visa (PVA) Requirement for Diplomatic and Official/Service Passport Holders on June 3, 2009.

It allows diplomatic passport or official/services passport holders of both countries to enter and stay in both countries for official visits, vacations or visiting relatives for 30 days without visas.

In 2015, Malaysia also implemented the e-visa and eNTRI initiatives, which contributed to an increasing number of tourists from China.

Last year, Malaysia received 2.1 million tourists from China, an increase of 26.7 percent from 2015.

Moving on, Malaysia is currently exploring the mechanism to expand the scope of PVA to include all passport holders.

The Home Affairs Ministry and its counterpart in China will be discussing the conditions that are agreeable to both parties prior to implementing the reciprocal visa policy.

Q: In conjunction with the 60th National Day celebration, what are your wishes in terms of Malaysia-China diplomatic ties?

A: I have every faith that Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with China will continue to grow through regular communications and exchange of visits between leaders, government and party officials and businesses.

It is satisfying to note that in four decades of relations, cooperation has expanded beyond trade and investment to include education, tourism, defense, agriculture, finance, transport, culture, health, natural resources and environment, and science and technology.

There is much scope for collaboration.

It is my hope that relations between Malaysia and China will grow from strength to strength.

This kind of close partnership not only benefits the people of both countries, but also provides strong support for regional stability and harmony.

In order to move forward, the foundation built in 1974 for mutually respectful relations must be upheld and preserved.


The full version of the interview can be viewed at

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