By MOHAMAD AZLAN JAAFAR, P PREM KUMAR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / Pic By MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
Prime Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he will emphasise Malaysia’s friendly relations with China on his five-day official visit to the country beginning today.
Speaking in an interview with The Malaysian Reserve, Dr Mahathir said the government will tell Beijing that it still welcomes foreign direct investments (FDIs) from China, but at the same time is asking to renegotiate some of the projects awarded by the previous administration.
He said Malaysia also wants to have a say in China’s FDIs so that they will benefit Malaysians.
“It should not be about buying properties here, developing luxurious towns which Malaysians cannot buy. That is not what we mean (about investment),” said Dr Mahathir.
Dr Mahathir’s visit to China will be his eighth as PM, but his first after his latest appointment in May. During his last stint as the fourth PM, Dr Mahathir went to China seven times between 1981 to 2003.
“By FDI, we mean bringing in capital, technology, setting up plants here and employing our people. That is what FDIs are about.
“They can produce goods for the local market or they can produce goods for export,” he explained.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia has always been friendly to China, even at a time when other countries were sceptical about establishing ties with the latter.
He also wants to explain to the Chinese government about the financial constraints faced by his new administration.
“We want to show that China is still our friend, in fact, we have been friendly with China much more than other countries in South-East Asia, and we want to emphasise that,” he said.
“But at the same time, we have financial problems. We cannot afford many of the things that were entered into by the previous government.
“We have to find ways of reducing the costs that we have to bear now.”
Dr Mahathir expects the Chinese government will listen with a sympathetic ear about the Malaysian government’s current position.
Prior to Dr Mahathir’s visit, Council of Eminent Persons chairman Tun Daim Zainuddin had paved the way with several high-level meetings on renegotiating Chinese contracts that have been awarded by the previous government, but are seen as lopsided currently.
These projects include the East Coast Rail Link and the Multi-Purpose Pipeline.
Dr Mahathir said Daim’s message to him was that Chinese leaders were understanding of the federal government’s financial constraints and were sympathetic towards it.
Meanwhile, Japan is positive on Malaysia’s request for a yen-denominated soft credit.
Dr Mahathir said in his recent visit to Japan, the second since May 8, officials close to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe have indicated a positive outcome on the loan request.
“I was in Japan recently and I had discussions with people around Abe and they are quite positive about it… they have given us some ideas on how this can be done,” he pointed out.
Dr Mahathir, who mooted the Look East Policy during his first administration, said Japan will remain as a dearest business partner for Malaysia.
“Japan still has good potentials, both for us to learn from them about business, about work ethics and a lot of things which can contribute towards our success in improving our capacities, but also provide us with partners.
“It has the technologies, it has systems of management which are worthwhile to us,” he said.
In a statement released yesterday, Wisma Putra said during the visit to China, Dr Mahathir will be visiting Hangzhou and Beijing, where he is scheduled to meet provincial leaders, undertake visits to corporate headquarters of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co Ltd.
In Beijing, Dr Mahathir will be meeting Premier Li Keqiang and President Xi Jinping to discuss bilateral issues, as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest.
Dr Mahathir and Li are also scheduled to witness the signing of three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) to mark the strengthening of Kuala Lumpur-Beijing strategic partnership in the areas of agriculture and agricommodity.
The Malaysian PM is also scheduled to hold dialogues with renowned entrepreneurs, as well as potential investors from China, besides hosting a dinner for the Malaysian diaspora.