In MH370, upset Malaysian officials see China ploy to divert anger

Malaysia’s high-ranking officials are increasingly frustrated with China’s pressure for answers over the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370. — Reuters pic
Malaysia’s high-ranking officials are increasingly frustrated with China’s pressure for answers over the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — High-ranking officials from Malaysia are increasingly frustrated with China’s pressure for answers over the missing Malaysia Airlines (MAS) flight MH370, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported.

Since the plane went missing on March 8, China has allowed the families of MH370’s Chinese passengers to stage protests against Malaysia.

“There is a growing feeling on the Malaysian side that this is a cynical ploy to exploit families in order to deflect attention from China’s domestic political concerns,” a source close to Malaysia’s investigation was quoted saying.

Observers backed the view that China’s government  is looking to divert attention away from itself.

Oh Ei Sun, a Singapore-based observer, was quoted as saying that the Chinese government’s tolerance for protests against Malaysia indicates its keenness to distract its citizens from its own limitations in searching for the plane.

“What the Chinese government fears the most is its own population turning its anger against them,” the Malaysian senior fellow attached to the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University was quoted saying by WSJ.

Roderic Wye, associate fellow at UK think-tank Chatham House, similarly pointed to China’s shifting of attention from its own inability to show it could help its own nationals, WSJ reported.

“It is a matter of considerable pride for the Chinese government to show that it can stand up and protect its citizens overseas,” he said, adding: “They haven’t been able to show that”.

Wye said there was “certainly pressure” on China to perform "and it does help to a certain extent if [Beijing] can shift some of that pressure away from the Chinese government to the Malaysians."

According to WSJ, China wants to make its mark as a superpower but still cannot match the technological prowess of US and other countries in the MH370 search, which is said to be largest search operation that China has been involved in.

Wang Xiaoxuan, a military analyst and director of China’s Naval Research Institute of the People’s Liberation Army, acknowledged China’s “lack of professional equipment” including satellite technology and underwater probes in an editorial yesterday in the China Daily newspaper.

WSJ also said Malaysian officials thought China was acting in a hypocritical manner by pressing for more transparency, with critics recently pointing out that China has a track record of being secretive and withholding information from its own citizens.

But after days of scathing attacks by Chinese-owned media, the tone appears to have changed, with China Daily this week calling for a “rational” response towards Malaysia.

After a series of briefings to Chinese families by high-level Malaysian officials in the past few days, China’s envoy to Malaysia Huang Huikang yesterday noted that the two countries would be marking 40 years of diplomatic relations, saying that ties between the two remain strong.

Huang said the MH370 incident is a “big disaster” and Malaysia should not be left to shoulder all the responsibilities alone, adding that he personally felt Putrajaya had “put in its greatest efforts”.

The multinational search for MH370 and the 239 people on board — including 153 passengers from China — is still being conducted in the Indian Ocean.

Related Articles