Mahathir: China a valuable trading partner

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that trade ties between China and Malaysia would be maintained as the former was the nation's biggest trading partner. PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has described China as a valuable trading partner, saying trade ties between the two countries would be maintained.

He said China was Malaysia's biggest trading partner and that Malaysia also draws big investors from China, reported The Star.

"When we first established ties with China, it was still a Third World country. But now China has made tremendous progress, and this influences our relationship," he told reporters after chairing Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia's supreme council meeting yesterday.

Tun Dr Mahathir will be going on a working visit to China in April, during which he will look at the Belt and Road Initiative, China's construction and transport plan to link Asia, Africa and Europe. "We will state our stand, and state our support, although China is (on a) different (level) now," he said.

Malaysian Transport Minister Anthony Loke said yesterday that while in Beijing, Dr Mahathir will be attending the Belt and Road Initiative summit.

"In the past few months, many have expressed concern about Malaysia's relationship with China," he was quoted as saying by news site The Malaysian Insight. "I can say here that although Malaysia has seen a change of government, its foreign policy concerning China remains the same."

After coming to power in May last year, Dr Mahathir vowed to renegotiate or cancel what he called "unfair" Chinese projects authorised by his predecessor Najib Razak.

Two pipeline projects with China costing RM9.4 billion (S$3.1 billion) were among a handful of China-funded mega infrastructure projects - entered into by the previous Barisan Nasional government - that were scrutinised by the new administration in a bid to tackle state debts totalling more than RM1 trillion.

Dr Mahathir's administration is also reviewing the RM81 billion East Coast Rail Link, meant to link the east and west coasts of Peninsular Malaysia.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2019, with the headline Mahathir: China a valuable trading partner. Subscribe