By Wong Chen
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival to all that celebrate and share in the celebrations. On the night of the festival this year, I was at home with my family. We walked around the park with lanterns, together with children from other races too.
In this article, I want to talk about China; from the personal about my family to the issue of Malaysia-China trade ties.
Let’s start with a personal family note. I am going to China tomorrow with my father, mother, elder brother and sister to visit our ancestral home in Jeiyang, China. The last time I visited Jeiyang was in 2019, before Covid-19. My family belongs to the Hakka Hopo clan. While both of my parents were born in Malaysia, both my grandmother and grandfather were actually born in China. Most of my grandparents’ contemporaries in China have passed on, but we are lucky that we can still trace our Wong ancestral history in China back to the last 14th generation.
Now, I would like to focus on the subject matter of Malaysia-China trade ties. A week ago, I was also in China, on an official trip as a guest of the Government of China to look and better understand the Belt and Road Initiative. I visited three cities; Beijing, Tianjin and Shanghai. I merely transited in Beijing and spent my five days mostly in Tianjin and Shanghai. I joined a group of legislators, policy makers and business people from seven countries. Our delegation was 18 persons in total and they were from Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Nepal, and Pakistan.
Our primary Chinese host was the China Economic Cooperation Centre. They were very friendly, generous and gracious following us to all the cities. We were given access to visit schools and facilities, medical tech parks, bonded warehouses, renewable energy projects, agriculture parks, fully automated port facilities, EV car factories, town planning municipalities, and museums.
The general impression I had from the visit was very positive. There seem to be a can-do spirit of the civil service and state-owned enterprises. There is also a more reserved attitude with better governance when it comes to business dinners and discussions. Gone were the days of gung-ho and questionable governance in business discussions. In my personal experience, a decade or two ago, doing business in China was much more cavalier. Now, the meetings were orderly and without any sign of unnecessary lavish spendings. Yet at the same time, the technology and capacity I witnessed have also thrived and grown tremendously. This culture of better governance while adopting, adapting and innovating technology, is something we can and must emulate in Malaysia.
The magnitude and high tech deployed in these showcase projects are incredible and are truly awe inspiring. My fellow Malaysian in the delegation, Dr Rais Hussin, who has travelled to more business destinations than me, remarked that the technology we saw were on par with that of Japan and South Korea. All members of our delegation (from various countries), agreed that our respective nations have a lot to do to learn and catch up.
In addition, as the non-executive Chairman of Malaysia Debt Ventures (MDV), I was particularly interested in the renewable energy (RE) sector of China. MDV is the pioneer financier of the RE sector in Malaysia. I take note that China is pushing harder and faster than any other country in the world on RE development. In fact, China’s RE supply is nearing the 30% mark and this is incredible when you consider the size and scale of their power needs. The other comparable countries in commitment to RE are the Nordic nations. For Malaysia to study and learn more about RE, China is much closer geographically and culturally than the Nordic nations.
At the Parliamentary level, I am fully aware that this official visit was also aimed to improve and further better Malaysia-China legislative ties. As Chairman of the Special Select Committee on International Relations and Trade, improving trade ties with our biggest trading partner and also the world’s second largest economy is a very good thing for Malaysia.
Malaysia is blessed geographically in that we are in the centre of ASEAN and our waters are amongst the world’s busiest shipping lanes. As such, our Malaysian foreign and international trade policy is to have friendly trade with everyone and where possible, avoid being pulled into a geopolitical trade war. In addition, when our help is sought, we are ever ready to help broker a dialogue between opposing countries, with the view to ease any trade tensions.
Lastly, China has been in the Malaysian news of late. This is because Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has made two trips to China this year to drum up investments and improve trade ties. In addition, next year will be the 50th anniversary of the Malaysia and China diplomatic ties. Therefore, for the remaining months of this year and most of next year, Malaysia’s special focus on China is likely to continue and grow.