Political slander sours Sino-Malaysian ties

By Su Tan Source:Global Times Published: 2017/1/19 23:48:40

Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad's recent accusation that Chinese investment in the country has stolen jobs from Malaysians has caused a strong backlash from both the Malaysian and Chinese sides. In a statement on its website with rarely seen harsh and strong words, the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia rebuked the accusation as revealing some politicians' double-dealing hypocrisy.

Earlier this month, Mahathir wrote in his blog and later repeated in a speech to political supporters that the Forest City development, a Chinese-funded housing project of 170 billion ringgit ($38 billion) at the southern tip of Malaysia, was building a "foreign enclave" that will house 700,000 Chinese mainlanders, and Malaysians will benefit little from such projects.

But his condemnation has found no followers, and instead invited rebuttals from Ibrahim Ismail, the sultan of Johor where the property project is located, and also Malaysia's tourism and culture minister.

Mahathir, who was Prime Minister Najib Razak's mentor and now one of his harshest critics, tried hard to improve Malaysia's ties with China during his tenure from 1981-2003. He used to rebuke foreign criticism of the China Threat and hailed China's economic growth as being beneficial to Malaysia. Unfortunately, he has turned a blind eye to the flourishing bilateral ties in recent years.

Mahathir more likely fanned the flames of anti-Chinese sentiment in an attempt to serve his political ends of triumphing in the general election, which is widely speculated to be convened this year. The 91-year-old former leader, who now leads an opposition party in Malaysia, said last week that if the opposition parties took power, the new government would freeze the sales of large assets to foreigners.

According to the Chinese Embassy, the economic and trade cooperation between Malaysia and its largest trading partner, China, has been booming with annual trade reaching around $100 billion.

This has brought significant benefits to Malaysians. It would be despicable if some ill-meaning people tried to fulfill their political motives by means of slandering Chinese investment.

Malaysia needs to take Mahathir's rhetoric seriously. By the end of 2015, Malaysian investment in China reached $7.4 billion in total while Chinese investment in Malaysia was $2.7 billion. Malaysia has been keen to attract as much investment from Chinese companies as possible.

But as Sultan Ibrahim said, if the political spin used by Mahathir is left unchecked, it would drive away investors. This is definitely a loss for Malaysia, not China.

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