China’s Foreign Minister Li Qiang begins Malaysia visit, ‘prepared’ to strengthen economic, development ties

Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to Malaysia is his first since taking office in March last year and is part of a series of high-level visits between the two countries as part of China’s 50th anniversary celebrations.

Beijing is also building closer ties with regional capitals such as Kuala Lumpur that are not taking sides in the geopolitical standoff between the United States and China, signaling instead that it is willing to expand exchanges with the world’s second-largest economy.

in Exclusive Interview Speaking to the South China Morning Post ahead of Li’s visit, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said it made sense for Malaysia to continue doing business with China.

Anwar stressed that he would not antagonize the United States or be swayed by unilateral actions by one country against another, saying this was no longer an issue of neo-colonialism or colonialism. “We are an independent nation,” he said.

“If they have compelling evidence that a company or country is doing bad things, that’s fine. They should present their evidence. But if not, we’re not going to bow to that kind of pressure.”

China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday praised Anwar’s remarks and said China “firmly supports” Malaysia and other countries. Association of Southeast Asian Nations It benefits member states in “preserving the strategic independence of their nations.”

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Anwar Ibrahim on navigating US-China tensions in Malaysia | Talking Post with Yongden Ratu

Anwar Ibrahim on navigating US-China tensions in Malaysia | Talking Post with Yongden Ratu

On Sunday, Chinese news outlet Guancha.cn published an interview with Anwar in which he revealed Malaysia’s intention to join the Beijing-backed BRICS group of emerging economies.

“We have taken the decision and we will start the formal process shortly,” Anwar said. Malaysia becomes the latest in a growing number of countries to join the EU, following the bloc’s original members Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

Prime Minister Lee was personally welcomed by President Anwar on Wednesday, and his itinerary also includes a meeting with Malaysia’s Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, the country’s king, according to the Malaysian foreign ministry.

PM Lee and PM Anwar also witnessed the exchange of several cooperation documents including on the export of Malaysian agricultural products to China. Other cooperation documents cover areas such as the digital economy, green development, tourism, housing and urban development, higher education, science and technology.

During his visit, PM Lee will also attend a luncheon with business representatives from both countries, the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang inspects the guard of honour during a welcoming ceremony in Malaysia on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

Trade between China and Malaysia grew 11.4% in both imports and exports in the first five months of 2024 compared with the same period last year in US dollar terms, according to Chinese customs data.

China will be Malaysia’s largest trading partner for the 15th consecutive year in 2023, while the United States maintained its position as the Southeast Asian country’s largest investment partner during the same period.

Among ASEAN countries, Malaysia is China’s second-largest trading partner and its largest source of imports. Kuala Lumpur will hold the rotating chair of the 10-nation group next year.

During his visit to Malaysia, PM Li will also attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) in Gombak district of Selangor, part of Beijing’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure plan.

Malaysian authorities expect the 665-kilometer (413-mile) railway line to be completed by the end of 2026 and begin operating in January 2027, becoming a major transportation artery connecting the country’s east and west coasts.

In his arrival statement on Tuesday evening, PM Li called on the two sides to view the commemoration as a “new starting point” for building a “community with a shared future”, a feature of relations agreed upon between China and Malaysia last year.

Chinese Premier Li Qiang (left) greets Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim ahead of their meeting in Putrajaya on Wednesday. Photo: AFP

PM Lee arrived in Kuala Lumpur on the final leg of a week-long tour which also included visits to New Zealand and four-day Australia, and which ended on Tuesday.

During his stay in Australia, Li visited the Perth factory of Chinese-owned Tianqi Lithium and the research center of Australian mining company Fortescue, which is also headquartered in the city.

Addressing a roundtable of Chinese and Australian business representatives in Perth on Tuesday, Li saw the two countries as a “close community with common interests” and called for cooperation in building a new “competitive” energy supply chain.

He said China’s technological advantages in new energy vehicles and lithium batteries were complementary to Australia’s abundance of key mineral resources.

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