40 YEARS ON: Special bond of friendship between Malaysia, China remains solid
FORTY years ago, Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, my father, established diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.
At the time, Malaysia was a relatively new country, having achieved independence less than 20 years before. The establishment of diplomatic relations was a momentous event -- indeed, Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country to recognise the People's Republic of China.
Four decades later, and much has changed. Malaysia has been transformed from a predominantly agrarian nation to a modern, industrialised country, well on its way to developed-nation status. China, too, has changed beyond recognition, and is now the world's second largest economy. It has re-emerged as a Great Power in a new, multipolar world order. While our countries, and the world, have changed considerably, one thing has remained constant: the strong bond of friendship between our two peoples.
|This commentary was published in the 'People's Daily' yesterday
Then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein with Chinese president Mao Zedong in Beijing in 1974. Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country to recognise the People’s Republic of China.
This friendship has produced economic success. Today, China is Malaysia's top trading partner. Last year, our bilateral trade was US$106 billion (RM340 billion). Malaysia and China are also investing in one another's countries like never before. Chinese foreign direct investment in Malaysia reached US$920 million last year. The two joint Malaysian-Chinese industrial parks -- the Qinzhou Industrial Park in Guangxi and the Kuantan Industrial Park -- have also received huge investments,creating new jobs and opportunities for our citizens.
Our people-to-people exchanges are also stronger than ever and Malaysia's Chinese community ensures that we will always have a special link with China. There is perhaps no better symbol of our friendship than the arrival from China of two giant pandas, who now happily reside in Zoo Negara, and who have become an instant hit with the Malaysian public.
Of course, as in any friendship, sometimes unexpected challenges occur. The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, with 154 Chinese nationals on board, is one such challenge. The tragedy has been exceptionally difficult for Malaysia. Faced with an unprecedented mystery, we had to put together the largest peacetime search operation in human history. But even in such challenging circumstances, our friendship has won through.
Malaysia and China worked closely together from the moment the aircraft disappeared. Malaysian officials, at every level of government, briefed their Chinese counterparts and Chinese authorities played a key role in the international investigation team that helped to narrow down the search area off western Australia.
I am very grateful for the contribution made by China -- both in terms of expertise and technical know-how, and the assets China contributed to the search operation, including search aircraft and ships. Malaysia is indebted to many countries for their help in MH370, such as Australia, which has led the search operation off Perth. And, we are especially grateful to China -- we could not have made so much progress in the search without China's considerable contribution.
In 40 years' time, in the 2050s, we will be in the middle of the "Asian Century". China will undoubtedly be the world's biggest economic power, and Malaysia will be a mature, developed nation. Then, as now, it is my firm belief that relations between our countries will remain strong. I trust that Malaysia and China will continue to be, not just friends, but partners for peace and prosperity.
New Straits Times Home News Columnist 31 May 2014 Datuk Seri Najib Razak