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Where does Malaysia stand on China’s Belt and Road?

28 7 0
AMONG the central narratives that swept the Mahathir Mohamad-led coalition into power in 2018 were two intricately interwoven accusations levelled at the former government.First, that Barisan Nasional’s shady dealings were burdening the Malaysian people with unsustainable debt and second, that by cosying up to China the party was putting self-interest ahead of national interest.

In opposition, Mahathir was unabashed in criticising major Belt and Road projects for favouring Chinese interests and lining the pockets of corrupt Barisan Nasional politicians.

In government, he promptly placed US$35 billion worth of rail, port and pipeline projects on indefinite hiatus, citing unaffordability under prevailing budgetary conditions.

Doubts over Malaysia’s Belt and Road participation gained momentum as the Malaysian government tightened its purse-strings and progressed reforms to heighten transparency and standards of government procurement.

SEE ALSO: China’s Belt and Road could lead to ‘alien invasion’ – study

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s overall relationship with its largest trading partner and investor appeared increasingly clouded by sharpening rhetoric around the South China Sea, a ban on residential visas for Forest City investors (two-thirds of whom are Chinese) and a more diverse Malaysian leadership threatened by rising unrest among the ethnic Malay majority.

Yet those exaggerating the influence of such flashpoints are missing the forest for the trees. China led a surge in foreign direct investment (FDI) into Malaysia in the second half of 2018, with a fourfold annual increase in approved Chinese investment contributing to a 48 percent jump in economy-wide FDI. The shelving of ‘unaffordable’........

© Asian Correspondent