Angeline Tan was quoted in Sin Chew, 29 March 2023
The South China Sea dispute and the alleged persecution of Uyghurs will probably be discussed discreetly in the interest of preserving bilateral relations.
Local scholars generally hold positive views on Dato’ Seri Anwar’s first official visit to China as Prime Minister, and believe that the relationship between Malaysia and China will only be further improved after the visit.
Angeline Tan said that Anwar’s official visit to China is very important to establish trust and a close partnership with China in order to maintain regional stability.
“This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), as well as the 10th anniversary of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. Anniversaries are always a good indicator for promoting positive relations, so the outlook of Anwar’s first official visit is expected to be positive.”
She pointed that China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years, so economic relations are an important part of bilateral relations.
However, Angeline also said that in the context of an increasingly uncertain world, Malaysia and China should pay more attention to maintaining regional stability.
“The two sides should deepen dialogue, build trust and establish de-escalation mechanisms in case any situation arises.”
“Specifically, there needs to be progress on the code of conduct in the South China Sea.”
Angeline also believes that Malaysia and China should also pay attention to climate action. The two countries have been giving increasing emphasis on sustainable development, so there is a lot of opportunity for cooperation in this field.
In addition, she believes that the BRI and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are positive factors in promoting Malaysia-China relations. With the reopening of China, RCEP may be able to assist Malaysia and the region’s economic recovery from the pandemic and the Ukraine war.
Angeline notes that while many speculate that the BRI is dead, she believes that the BRI is still evolving.
“There is an emphasis on the Digital Silk Road that focuses on the digital economy, which happens to align with the Malaysia Digital Economic Blueprint (MyDIGITAL). There is no doubt that the BRI is still an important initiative by Beijing.”
“In fact, this year marks the 10th anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative, so it’s likely to remain a key feature of Beijing’s foreign economic policy and serve as a source for growth for Malaysia.”
Angeline pointed out that previously the BRI was negatively associated with former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s corruption scandals. So, if Anwar is serious about local socioeconomic prosperity and welfare, we can expect more carefully planned and targeted projects under the BRI that can bring benefits to the rakyat.
Talking about the increasingly tense relationship between China and the United States, Angeline Tan believes that Malaysia cannot afford to be a bystander of the US-China competition, because it directly impacts us, and Anwar is clearly aware of this.
“Prime Minister Anwar has said before that he is not interested in being drawn into a new ‘Cold War’. It is in Malaysia’s interest to maintain a friendly, close and cooperative relationship with both US and China. Therefore, it is important that we remain balanced and actively engaged with both countries.”
Malaysia should also be careful not to become a pawn in this great power competition, she said.
She said that the Malaysia Madani concept launched by Anwar reflects the values and dignity of our country. Therefore, whenever sensitive issues arise in our region, Malaysia should raise its voice.
“Better yet, Malaysia can rally Asean to speak up, or use Asean as a platform for multilateral dialogue.”
“However, this does not mean we should speak out on every matter, especially those that do not directly concern Malaysia or our immediate region.”
This article first published in Sin Chew, 29 March 2023