Mahathir’s China visit a great success
Published on: Sunday, August 26, 2018

By Datuk John Lo
A few critics who are opposition inspired against the PH government, have slammed Tun M’s official visit to China as being disastrous, has achieved little.

Their wish is to see China backdown which China would not do without loss of face.

It is well to remember that there were no economic/political coercion and compulsion on the previous government to sign all the agreements that are now seen as lopsided with details revealed in the public domain.

These agreements have been entered into willingly and with much fanfare.

With the benefit of the details now made public, I think Tun M’s success for the China visit has been beyond expectation. If blame is to be apportioned, those who have signed for Malaysia should own up and apologise.

Don’t blame the Chinese government.

Asking for Robert Kuok to assist was wise.

A wise leader is one who knows when and who to ask for help for no leader can solve all problems by himself.

Tun M’s approach to Robert Kuok for assistance shows he is such a leader for Robert, being a true Malaysian patriot and having the best access to Peking unmatched by any other Malaysian, is imminently suitable.

One can imagine the tremendous valuable preparatory work he has done to ease the way for Tun Daim’s and Tun M’s visit. I would say this, Robert’s behind the scene work has, in no small measure, produced the highly satisfactory outcome of Tun M’s official visit to China.

Tun M’s strategy has paid off.

For those having expectation of a “big bang” from Tun M’s visit is naive and may be ignorant of the myriad and intensity of the financial problems that Tun M has inherited. The other factor to bear in mind for a small nation like Malaysia – you do not pick a fight with a super power that you cannot win or no chance of winning, be it with the most powerful nation in the world, USA or the 2nd China, which by the way, is also Malaysia’s largest trading partner. Much more than this is that the balance of trade between Malaysia and China is hugely in our favour.

Effectively, Malaysia has been benefitting billions each year from the Sino-Malaysia trading.

Tun M has proven his diplomatic agility during his visit. He has said all the right things, has put across the message that needed to be put in the right tone that Malaysia is not a push over.

He was frank to admit Malaysia’s present weak financial position. All in all, he has got President Xi to accept Malaysia’s request to cancel the ESRL and two gas pipe line without repercussions. Above all, Tun M has gained the respect of the Chinese leadership.

Tun M’s visit was invitation from Peking.

During Tun M’s previous 22-year term as PM, he has cultivated good relationship with China’s elite which has lasted till today. Peking still has the highest regards for him. In the age-old Chinese custom, Peking still hold Tun M in high regards. Their respect for Tun M from the past has made it possible the satisfactory outcome of this official visit.

China’s reaffirmation of more imports from Malaysia is more important.

China’s confirmation of more imports from Malaysia is economically more significant than asking for China’s public back down on ECRL and gas pipe line projects. For example, more import of whole durians will have beneficial impacts on small and medium durian farmers in the near and long terms.

Tun M’s confirmation of Chinese agreement to delay/cancel ECRL and two gas pipe line projects is good news.

This is akin to a maturing relationship between two good friends. One has approached the other for understanding in view of unfortunate financial circumstances and the other, in good faith, has accepted his explanation.

Both Tun M and President Xi have agreed that there are more important things for Malaysia and China than fighting over these projects that will damage Malaysia financially. Apparently, Tun M has not requested for concessions. Like a man, he has said that if there is compensation to be paid, so be it.

Malaysia has gone a long way financially and economically, we are no longer a 3rd world, poverty-stricken country, always with a bowl in hand asking for charity.

If we have made mistakes in entering these unfavourable agreements, so be it.

We should face the hard facts of life and a lesson for future Prime Ministers and ministers of finance to uphold their fiduciary duties. And above all, for Malaysian voters not to give their votes and support to irresponsible leaders.

Much more hard negotiations remain to finally put all these rather past unfortunate agreements to rest.

The positive is the re-establishment of mutual respect and a higher level of friendship between the two countries.

What’s in store in future for Sino-Malaysian relationship?

At the end of the day, Tun M’s visit to China will bring many long-term concrete benefits resulting from a relation born out of mutual respect for Malaysia:

[a] Malaysia’s standing will elevate in status with China which is the present 2nd super power and soon to be 1st super power.

[b] From this enhanced respect, economic benefits in more trade and meaningful investment will follow quite naturally. These trade and investment will bring positive advantages without hidden or problematic agenda.

Already, several Chinese companies have expressed keen interest in Tun M’s 2nd national car with prospect of RM40 plus billion investment. This in itself reflects the huge success of Tun M’s official visit.

The initial misgivings that I and many others have on the 2nd national car has begun to dissipate.

[c] As a direct outcome of Tun M’s visit, Malaysia has emerged as a matured nation among Asean and international communities.

[d] Most importantly is Tun M’s proposal for Malaysia to become China’s technological hub in Asean and beyond.

[e] With the newly developed trust between our two countries, Malaysia can be a useful hub for China’s export to USA in the current complex trade war between the two super powers.

How can Sabah benefit from Tun M’s Visit to China?

As the MITI Minister who is a Sabahan was with Tun M for the visit, I am certain he will have a good take on what Sabah can do and should do to capture new opportunities for Sabah. If I may, I like to suggest

[a] Datuk Shafie to lead a follow up delegation to China as soon as possible.

[b] Most of the 400,000 plus Chinese tourists are arriving by chartered flights.

Time is right to build on our success to promote more scheduled flights and full-service airlines to KK.

These will result in better certainty of arrivals, better commitment from Chinese airlines to promote Sabah and more higher value FITs.

[c] Also good opportunity to conduct a vigorous campaign for SICC and KK as the preferred convention city.

[d] Promote Sabah as a potential durian exporter to China. It is public knowledge that many investors in Sabah are growing durians for the Chinese market.

[e] Promote Sabah as a major producer of live seafood.

[f] There are good prospects to attract Chinese downstream investments in [d] and [e].

[g] Deriving long term economic benefits from oil will depend on our ability to attract downstream investments.

Establishing such industry can be part of future royalty negotiations with the Federal government.

[h] China is the greatest consumer of herbs and herbal medicine [also known as alternative medicine].

Leverage Sabah’s rich biodiversity to work with China for growing and processing of herbal medicine.

Believe me, the market potential for herbs is big in China. No point to keep boasting of our vast biodiversity if we fail to exploit it to gain economic benefits.

Let’s capture the momentum of this new found Sino/Malaysian relationship and benefit from it.

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