In Hong Kong, Anwar seeks to smooth ruffled Chinese feathers

Anwar insisted Malaysia continued to view ties with China as well as countries in the Far East, Europe and the US to be 'priorities'. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Anwar insisted Malaysia continued to view ties with China as well as countries in the Far East, Europe and the US to be 'priorities'. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 12 — Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim reiterated Malaysia’s commitment to ties with China and East Asian partners during a Hong Kong forum yesterday, after Putrajaya cancelled three major infrastructure projects awarded to Chinese firms.

Addressing the CLSA Investors’ Forum in Hong Kong, the country’s anointed eighth prime minister conceded that Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s insistence on terminating the projects has caused controversy.

However, he insisted Malaysia continued to view ties with China as well as countries in the Far East, Europe and the US to be “priorities.”

“For Malaysia, we take a very positive view on the need to enhance bilateral relations, regional [relations], trade and investments, and China happens to be one great economy, a great neighbour that we need to not only continue [our relationship with] but enhance this relationship,” Anwar was quoted as saying by the South China Morning Post.

When a forum moderator noted that Anwar made no mention of Singapore, with whom Malaysia has also deferred an ambitious High Speed Rail link, the former deputy prime minister said the island state remained one of the country’s “great partners”.

Last week, Malaysia confirmed that it is discontinuing three gas pipeline projects awarded to Chinese firms by the previous Barisan Nasional administrations.

Dr Mahathir travelled to Beijing, China last month to seek the cancellation of these as well as the East Coast Rail Link that the Malaysian government alleged contained dubious payment structures and suspected links to the 1MDB corruption scandal.

The new government’s insistence on terminating the projects has raised concern that Malaysia was turning cold towards China and reversing the Najib administration’s pivot towards the Asian superpower.

While China appears to have accepted Malaysia’s reasons, the country’s state-linked media has urged Putrajaya to be more restrained in its remarks about the deals with Chinese firms.

Dr Mahathir is an open admirer of China’s rival and neighbour, Japan.

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