KUALA LUMPUR • Malacca state is relying on its unique historical link with China and its strategic location to promote itself as China's gateway to South-east Asia, said its Chief Minister Idris Haron.
In an interview with China News Service, he said economic and cultural ties between Malacca and China date back to as early as 600 years ago, when explorer Zheng He visited Malacca several times.
"As some of the crew members in Zheng He's fleet settled down in Malacca and married locals of other ethnic groups, their descendants lived in peace with others. This has shaped the unique Baba and Nonya culture in Malacca, a true reflection of Malaysia-China friendship," the minister said.
Datuk Seri Idris, who has picked up some conversational Mandarin in recent years, said in his more than 20 visits to China, whenever he touched on Malacca, Chinese nationals were familiar with the name.
"At the same time, I would tell my Chinese friends that we learnt of Malacca's friendship with China in our history lessons in secondary school." He is optimistic about Chinese President Xi Jinping's "One Belt, One Road" initiative, saying it would create development opportunities along its route, including for Malacca.
In recent years, Malacca has attracted a number of Chinese investors, such as Xinyi Group which has invested RM1.2 billion (S$380.9 million) to build a glass factory, one of the largest single foreign investments in the state in decades. The factory has created 800 jobs, and spurred the raw materials market for glassware.
Other Chinese projects in the state under the "One Belt, One Road" framework, he said, include China General Nuclear Power Group's power plant, the China-Malaysia Seafront Industrial Park and Melaka Gateway, a deep sea port.
There are also prospects for direct transport links between Malacca and China by sea, land and air, with Melaka Gateway, a high-speed railway to Kunming and a direct flight to Guangzhou.
These linkages, said Mr Idris, offer a good platform from which Chinese corporations can invest in the South-east Asian market.
Referring to the RM43 billion Melaka Gateway, Mr Idris said: "We are not just building a deep sea port. We are building the future of this country."
SIN CHEW DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK