KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 8 — China has dismissed a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report today which claimed it offered the former Barisan Nasional government a deal to bail out 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) in return for contracts to further its ‘One Belt, One Road’ agenda.
Malaysiakini cited a spokesman of the Chinese embassy in Kuala Lumpur, who said China adheres to a policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of other countries.
“China never attaches political conditions on our cooperation with other countries. We promote the ‘Belt and Road’ initiative under the principles of wide consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits, with an aim to pursue shared development and prosperity.
“We do not accept any groundless accusations made against China,” the embassy said.
Malaysiakini also quoted the embassy saying China was committed to working with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to improve bilateral ties.
The WSJ report by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope — the authors of Billion Dollar Whale — had cited previously undisclosed minutes from meetings between Malaysian and Chinese officials as well as sources from the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration for China.
“Notes from that meeting said Malaysia was working to enhance bilateral ties, citing support Mr Najib voiced for China’s position in the South China Sea during a regional summit in Laos.
“Two months later, Najib went to Beijing and signed the deals. Together with other projects, they made Malaysia the second-biggest recipient of One Belt, One Road funding after Pakistan,” the daily wrote, referring to former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak.
It said within months of China’s offer, Najib signed US$34 billion (RM139.8 billion) worth of rail, pipeline and other deals with Chinese state firms that were to be funded by Chinese banks and built by Chinese workers.
The WSJ article also reported clandestine talks between then prime minister Najib and Chinese officials to allow naval ships from China to dock at Malaysian ports.
Minutes purportedly of Chinese-Malaysian meetings further showed that although the projects’ purposes were “political in nature” — to settle 1MDB’s debt — it was imperative the public viewed them as commercial pursuits.
After Pakatan Harapan formed the federal government, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad swiftly put the Chinese projects on hold.
The Mahathir administration has also cancelled at least two such projects and is still trying to terminate the East Coast Rail Link that is seen as the flagship project of the Belt-Road initiative here.
Najib is currently on trial for corruption, money laundering, and criminal breach of trust offences related to 1MDB, as are several members of his administration.
China announced its ambitious multi-trillion One Belt, One Road initiative in 2013, ostensibly to recreate a modern-day Silk Road, but the programme remains hobbled by suspicions that it is a vehicle for Chinese neo-colonialism.