KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia and China remain committed to continue strengthening their bilateral relations, and both countries should not let "small issues" affect ties that go back centuries.
This was the main message conveyed during a meeting between Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and China's ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian on Thursday, reported Malaysian state news agency Bernama, citing a statement issued by the Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah's office on Saturday (July 21).
Mr Bai made the call on Dr Wan Azizah amid uncertainty over the RM81 billion East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project led by Chinese contractors.
Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng announced earlier this month that the 688km rail project, which was launched by the previous government under then Prime Minister Najib Razak, would be continued only after the cost was lowered to a financially viable level.
The new administration under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad this month issued a stop-work order on the ECRL while it reviews the project.
The project as well as others between Malaysia and China will be on Tun Dr Mahathir's agenda during his visit to Beijing next month.
During Mr Bai's call on Dr Wan Azizah on Thursday, he noted that China was Malaysia's largest trading partner while Malaysia remained an important destination for Chinese foreign direct investment as well as Chinese tourists, Bernama reported.
Mr Bai said he would like to see more people-to-people exchanges between the two countries, the report said.
"I would like to encourage more exchanges, not only between the Malaysian Chinese with the Chinese in the mainland but also between the Malay students and the Chinese students so that our relationship will grow more in strength and be more widely seen and accepted," he said.
Dr Wan Azizah said Malaysia would like to increase trade with China in other spheres in addition to existing ones and would like more Chinese tourists to visit the country, reported Bernama.
"This is a new government, a new environment in that sense. The change of democracy happened peacefully. The harmony that we show and practice is important," she said.
Meanwhile on Friday, Dr Mahathir said he would invite Chinese companies to invest in Malaysia during his Beijing visit next month.
The investment should be in productive capacities and use Malaysian labour and sources, he added.