Published: 19:08, May 22, 2024 | Updated: 19:14, May 22, 2024
China and Malaysia at 50: Building a community with a shared future
By Dominic Lee

This year celebrates the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia, marking a significant milestone that highlights a half-century of friendship and deep collaboration. The enduring ties between the two nations are characterized by mutual respect and shared ambitions for progress and prosperity.

The Malaysia-China Commemorative Forum co-organized by China Daily in Kuala Lumpur recently provided a platform for discussing the historical and current significance of bilateral interactions and the future trajectory of this relationship.

The relationship received an important boost with a new agreement between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. The leaders reached a consensus on jointly building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future, which promises to deepen cooperation across sectors such as trade, technology and infrastructure, thus heralding a new chapter in bilateral relations.

Historically, the voyages of Ming Dynasty Admiral Zheng He, who visited Malacca five times, underscore the long-standing interactions between Malaysia and China. Since establishing official diplomatic ties in 1974, economic and trade cooperation between the two countries has flourished. China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 15 consecutive years, with trade accounting for about 21 percent of Malaysia’s total trade volume. In 2022, the trade volume between the two countries reached $203.6 billion, making Malaysia China’s second-largest trading partner within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the seventh-largest globally.

As China and Malaysia embrace a new era, they are poised to expand their cooperation, enhancing bilateral relations. This evolving partnership not only reflects the historical ties between, and aspirations of, both nations but also highlights their crucial roles in regional dynamics and the global economic framework

Technological and industrial cooperation has been equally impressive. Chinese companies such as Great Wall Motor and BYD Auto have introduced electric vehicles in Malaysia, aiding its transition to new energy. Similarly, popular Chinese tech brands like Huawei, Xiaomi, and OPPO have found a receptive market in Malaysia. Meanwhile, Malaysia’s leading mobile payment brand, Touch ‘n Go, has collaborated with Alipay to enhance financial connectivity through e-wallets and cross-border mobile payments.

Malaysia also plays an active role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has brought significant infrastructure and economic benefits. Initiatives like the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park and the enhancement of Kuantan and Klang ports exemplify this mutually beneficial cooperation.

Hong Kong plays a crucial role as a “superconnector” in the interaction between China and BRI-participating countries like Malaysia. Leveraging its strengths in financial and professional services, Hong Kong facilitates collaboration and market expansion, offering financing and professional services to enterprises engaging in these markets. In early 2022, Hong Kong also initiated the process to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), recognizing the importance of securing its role as a hub for trade and investment in the Pan-Asian region.

Both China and Malaysia are founding members of the RCEP, which enhances trade and investment opportunities. Adhering to RCEP’s standards and regulations promises to bolster trade cooperation, benefit businesses and consumers, and foster cultural, educational and technological exchanges.

As China and Malaysia embrace a new era, they are poised to expand their cooperation, enhancing bilateral relations. This evolving partnership not only reflects the historical ties between, and aspirations of, both nations but also highlights their crucial roles in regional dynamics and the global economic framework. As we move forward, the commitment to mutual understanding and collaboration will undoubtedly continue to drive the prosperity and development of both China and Malaysia.

The author is convener at China Retold, a member of the Legislative Council, and a member of the Central Committee of the New People’s Party.