China’s President Xi Jinping will head to Malaysia on Thursday with trade ties high on the agenda. The two countries are expected to unveil a five-year economic plan to steer trade and economic cooperation to greater heights.
China’s President Xi Jinping will head to Malaysia on Thursday after his visit to neighbouring Indonesia.
With two-way trade reaching a historic high of over US$94 billion last year, Malaysia-China trade ties will be high on Mr Xi’s agenda.
The two countries are expected to unveil a five-year economic plan to steer trade and economic cooperation to greater heights.
Malaysia is the first Southeast Asian nation to establish diplomatic relations with China, and both countries have greatly benefited from the mutual trust and cooperation.
China has overtaken the US as Malaysia’s largest trading partner in the last four years.
Malaysia, on the other hand, has been China’s biggest trading partner in Southeast Asia in the last five years, and it looks set to become China’s third largest trading partner in Asia, with bilateral trade topping US$100 billion.
The two countries are trying to take that relationship further with President Xi’s three-day visit to Malaysia.
Kuala Lumpur and Beijing are expected to sign a host of agreements, including a five-year economic blueprint to develop 11 key sectors ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and infrastructure, to education and tourism.
Dr Michael Yeoh, chief executive officer of Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI), elaborated: “There is a five-year economic cooperation plan between Malaysia and China that is supposed to be signed during the president’s visit and that will lay out the vision and the strategy of both countries in deepening the bilateral economic and trade relationship.”
ASLI is an independent think-tank in Malaysia.
However, regional experts feel that China’s claims over the South China Sea may pose a stumbling block to ongoing cooperation with Malaysia as well as other ASEAN member countries.
Parti Keadilan Rakyat’s (PKR) economic adviser Wong Chen explained: “Spratly’s (the disputed islands) needs to be resolved as soon as possible because that’s a source of immense wealth, oil wealth, that both, everybody can exploit and everybody can benefit from. The key is whether we come to an equitable sharing with China, or whether China has actually any real claim to the areas they are asking for.”
To do so, experts said ASEAN must come together and engage China as an equal partner.
Mr Chen said: “You cannot see China as a threat. Southeast Asia as a region, we are very united. We are now almost, I would say, a quarter of China, right? Therefore, we can be a partner. I think, if we look too much into political issues, geo-political issues…the fight between the US and China, then Southeast Asian interest will be lost.”
Dr Yeoh said: “I think by and large most of ASEAN would want to see China being engaged with the region in a very peaceful manner and that the peaceful rise of China would enhance the prosperity of the region.”
As Beijing pursues its Chinese dream to rejuvenate its nation of over 1.3 billion, Malaysia will be hoping not just to increase exports to China, but also to attract more Chinese tourists and investors into the country to boost its economy.
Source : Channel News Asia | October 2, 2013