China, Malaysia deepen ties with new economic pact | Business & Economic News

Ahead of a visit by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, the Malaysian Prime Minister expressed hope that southern hemisphere countries would join the BRICS alliance.

China and Malaysia have agreed to renew a five-year economic and trade cooperation agreement.

The agreement, deepening ties between the two countries as they mark 50 years of diplomatic ties, was signed on Wednesday during a visit by Chinese Premier Li Qiang to Malaysia’s administrative capital, Putrajaya, on the final leg of a regional tour aimed at expanding China’s influence in the Asia-Pacific region amid rising geopolitical tensions with the United States.

“China is ready to cooperate with Malaysia,” Li said the previous night as Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim rolled out the red carpet on his arrival.

“China is promoting China’s modernization in all aspects through high-quality development. Malaysia is promoting national development…”

After the informal talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing of various agreements, including an economic and trade pact, which officials said will strengthen industrial cooperation in priority areas such as high-level manufacturing and the digital economy.

Other agreements signed aim to boost investment in green development, fight international crime, and promote housing and urban development, higher education, people-to-people exchanges in science and technology, tourism and cultural cooperation, according to Anwar’s office.

“Light of hope”

While trade topped the agenda in public, Anwar’s comments before the meeting hinted at a geopolitical dimension.

In an interview broadcast before his visit, Li told Chinese media that Malaysia plans to join the BRICS bloc of developing countries once it receives a response to its expression of interest from current chair South Africa.

He voiced support for the European Union’s Global South policy and criticized the “Western narrative” about Israel’s war in Gaza for focusing too much on the October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel.

China’s rise “brings a ray of hope that there are checks and balances in the world,” he said.

During Premier Li Keqiang’s three-day visit to Malaysia, which follows visits to New Zealand and Australia, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing are also expected to discuss the thorny issue of territorial claims in the South China Sea.

Malaysia, along with Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Taiwan, contests Beijing’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea.

But unlike the highly publicized clashes between the Philippines and China, the Malaysian government prefers the diplomatic route and has rarely criticised Beijing, even when Chinese coast guard vessels have sailed near Malaysian waters.

This is partly aimed at safeguarding economic ties: China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner since 2009, with total trade reaching 450.84 billion ringgit ($98.9 billion) last year.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Mohamad Hassan said his country was looking to “further develop” the cooperation established in the mid-1970s. “The good relations we have built since then will enable us to manage and resolve any issues amicably,” he was quoted as saying by The Star.

PM Li will also meet with Malaysia’s King Ibrahim and on Wednesday attend a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site of the East Coast Rail Transit (ECRL), part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

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