China not like British colonists, analyst says amid Malaysian concern

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak meets Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, May 13, 2017. — Reuters pic
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak meets Chinese President Xi Jinping ahead of the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, May 13, 2017. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, May 13 — An expert on China’s One Belt, One Road strategy has dismissed accusations of neo-colonialism by the economic superpower amid Malaysia’s involvement in the initiative.

Sam Beatson, a researcher with the King’s College London, said China has not shown itself to be a colonial power, unlike the British Empire that once asserted control over parts of Malaysia.

“China’s record so far is not comparable to colonialism in the sense Malaysia has previously known it,” Beatson, a researcher with the Lau China Institute, said in a South China Morning Post (SCMP) report today.

“Modern China has no record of administrative level colonialism, or of the use of force outside its deemed territories,” he added.

In addition, Beatson said the goal of China’s perceived “soft power” was simply to maximise its economic investments.

Cheng Xiaohe, a Chinese foreign policy expert at Beijing’s Renmin University, also explained that the Asian behemoth’s preferential treatment for Malaysia was due to both countries’ long ties instead of any insidious objective.

“The good relations certainly put Malaysia in an advantageous position to get preferential treatment from China in its Belt and Road Initiative,” Cheng reportedly said.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is currently on a working visit to China until May 16, and is joining the two-day Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation there this weekend.

Yesterday in an opinion piece published by SCMP, Najib has rubbished claim that opening the country’s borders for trade with China will lead to diminished sovereignty.

In SCMP’s report today, business insiders have chided critics of Malaysia’s involvement in the initiative, claiming they have scrutinised it only through “zero-sum lenses” that assume there could be only one winner.

“I think that is wrong ... in fact China is more eager to build a better relationship with Malaysia,” Chin Yew Sin, the deputy secretary general of the Federation of Chinese Associations Malaysia, said as quoted in the report.

Michael Yeoh, a Malaysian who heads the World Chinese Economic Summit, also said that “the growing bilateral ties will result in greater shared prosperity and also generate more employment opportunities”.

China unveiled its One Belt One Road initiative in 2013 as a development strategy that focuses on connectivity and cooperation among various countries.

It has two components — the Silk Road Economic Belt that will be established along the Eurasian land corridor from the Pacific coast to the Baltic Sea, and the 21st century Maritime Silk Road.

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