Former Malaysian PM’s regret over national carmaker’s deal with Geely is misplaced

By XIao Xin Source:Global Times Published: 2017/5/31 23:03:39

Some believe last week's announcement that Chinese automaker Zhejiang Geely Holding will buy a 49.9 percent stake in Malaysia's national carmaker Proton will finally revive the long-struggling marque, by boosting its funding and technology. But for former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad, the deal was a sad event.

Perhaps being overemotional has affected his judgment. The elder statesman - who turns 92 in July - used to be chairman of Proton, but he should be broad-minded enough not to see the Chinese carmaker as an unwelcome arrival. In a blog posting on May 25, shortly after the announcement, the former PM lamented the fact that Proton will no longer be a national brand. He acknowledged that the deal will probably be a commercial success, but said he could not take pride in the success of something that doesn't belong to him or his country.

As such, his deep love of Proton turns out to be incompatible with efforts to steer the marque toward a revival. This has been deemed unwise, not just by the Chinese side, but also by his own countrymen.

In an article titled "Why cry over sale of Proton stake to Geely?" on Sunday, the New Straits Times (NST) questioned the former PM's attitude. "Why cry, when we should instead rejoice that the future of Proton looks more secure than before," said the article.

With a proven record, following its acquisition of Sweden-based Volvo, Geely is generally considered a suitable partner for Proton. And as one of the creators of Proton, shouldn't the still sprightly Malaysian politician be happy about a more secure future for his brainchild?

The NST article also revealed that the statesman, in his role as Proton chairman, once traveled to China to seek a partnership between Proton and Geely.

It could just be a case of patriotism triumphing over open-mindedness, an attitude that seems to be rising alongside protectionist moves across the globe. But a protectionist ideology will only lead to failure. With Proton arriving at death's door - held back by the government's over-protection of its domestic automobile industry - the deal with Geely is the only way forward for the company.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.


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