Inclusive policy conducive to Malaysia’s development

By Ai Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2018/5/15 22:08:40

Days have passed since Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in as Malaysia's new prime minister, yet the proposal he made to review Chinese investment deals is still flourishing on the homepages of many Western mainstream media.

His complaint against Beijing during the election campaign is the major reason why the world is watching for policy clues over China from the new administration. "We gain nothing from the [Chinese] investment," said Mahathir earlier this month.

But is that so? How can Malaysia gain nothing from China, its largest trade and investment partner? Take the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park. Reports said the program is expected to boost local economic growth while creating thousands of jobs. Moreover, many Malaysian manufacturers of electronic devices are producing corollary equipment for Chinese products, which have been transported to European and US markets. Manufacturing industries from both sides have already formed an industrial chain.

Dating back to 2003, Mahathir, who was in his first term as the nation's prime minister, once said "Chinese have done very well… Chinese have provided the entrepreneurship and the business skills to enrich the country." During his 22 years in office, he visited China seven times and the trade volume between the two nations jumped from about $289 million from 1981 to $20 billion in 2003.

As a widely acknowledged nationalist, Mahathir's goal was utilizing China topics to win more votes from ethnic Malays, some of whom harbor anti-Chinese sentiments.

Unlike other multi-ethnic countries, Malaysia is a very rare nation which has particular law to provide privileges to an ethnic majority. In other words, its law determined that Malaysia is a democracy with unequal treatment of Malays versus other ethnic groups.

According to article 153 of Malaysia's constitution, Malays must be provided with certain preferences in terms of business licenses, scholarships and employment in the public service. This makes ethnic Chinese feel like outsiders in their own country. The policy hurts Malaysia's development. Over the past few years, an increasing number of second and third generations of Malaysian Chinese, especially those who received a higher education, chose to move or transfer their assets abroad. It is also a crucial reason why Robert Kuok Hock Nien, the richest person in Malaysia and a Malaysian Chinese, shifted his business to Hong Kong in the 1970s. Why is Malaysia stuck in the middle-income trap? Its lawmakers may find some clues in the move. 

After Mahathir won the election, he said he had no problem with China's Belt and Road initiative, which was a positive sign. As a pragmatist, he must have known that cooperation could help promote Malaysia's economic transformation and assist the nation's infrastructure construction. It is to be hoped that Malaysia's new government can treat its collaboration with China with a fair-and-square view.

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