High-level visits heighten new level of Malaysia-China strategic partnership

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia and China have established a strong and enduring diplomatic relations that will span five decades in 2024, amidst prevailing challenges in the global and regional geopolitical landscape, and the rise of China as a new superpower. 

The seriousness and commitment of the two countries in advancing their bilateral ties have been evident and reflected by the more frequent exchanges of high level visits by leaders of both countries especially in 2023.

International relations analyst Prof Dr Roy Anthony Rogers Peter Rogers from Universiti Malaya says these high-level visits are crucial as they promote deeper understanding and partnership between Malaysia and China, hence contributing towards building stronger ties together in the long term.

Moreover, such exchanges indicate the importance Putrajaya and Beijing placed in this bilateral relationship. 

“China values the cordial relationship with Malaysia. This is because Malaysia is strategically located in the centre of Southeast Asia linking South China Sea and the Straits of Malacca. This is very critical because of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

“Plus our government has been very friendly to China both at the government and non government – business community, education and cultural levels. 

“As much as we look at China as an opportunity, I believe China also sees the same thing. That is why many high ranking Chinese officials are also visiting Malaysia,” he told Bernama. 

The high level exchange of visits this year has been a spectacular one as Malaysia and China marked the 10th anniversary of their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, and await to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties in 2024. 

From China’s side, the latest to visit Malaysia was Chinese vice president Han Zheng, who has just wrapped up his four-day visit here on Nov 11. Just before him, it was state councillor and Public Security Minister Wang Xiaohong.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi was in Kuala Lumpur in August and before him in May, Chinese National People Congress (NPC) standing committee chairman Zhao Leji made a three-day official visit here. 

The visits were also reciprocated by the Malaysian side, with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim attending the Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2023 (BFA 2023) in Hainan in March where he also made an official visit to Beijing at the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. 

In September, Anwar made a second visit to attend the 20th China-ASEAN Expo (Caexpo) in Nanning. 

Dewan Rakyat Speaker Tan Sri Johari Abdul also made a working visit to Beijing in September, followed by Transport Minister Anthony Loke’s trip to attend the BRI Summit in October. 

From Nov 12 to 19, Deputy Prime Minister and Plantation and Commodities Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof is travelling to Beijing and Shanghai to further deepen the collaboration especially in the areas of research and developmnet (R&D) and capacity building as well as in commodity trade. 

Whilst noting that Anwar’s administration views China in a favourable light, Dr Lee Pei May from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) opines that strong Putrajaya-Beijing bilateral relations would augur well for ASEAN as well, especially when Malaysia assumes the Chair of the regional bloc in 2025.

“I anticipate that in adressing the South China Sea tensions, more progress could be made when Malaysia becomes ASEAN chair. Malaysia has always taken quiet diplomacy on this issue,” she says.

As the year 2024 will mark another milestone as Malaysia and China relations reaches its 50th year, each of the visit adds to the momentum and provides opportunity for both sides to prepare the groundwork for more activities and programmes to be organised, and take the strategic partnership to new heights.

“It will be a meaningful year for both countries. There is a Chinese saying that real gold can withstand burning fire. Likewise the relationship between Malaysia and China, like gold, have overcome all challenges and remain precious,” Roy Anthony Roger says. – BERNAMA / pic credit: PMO