Insights | Malaysian scholar: knowledge and skills from China add value to Malaysia’s development

2024-06-04 Editor : Mo Honge ECNS App Download

By Chen Caixia

(ECNS) -- "Malaysia began to establish diplomatic ties with the People's Republic of China in 1974. In fact, we are the very first Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries to do so. Since then, Malaysia-China relations have grown and warmed over the years," said Lee Pei May, assistant professor of the Department of Political Science at the International Islamic University Malaysia, during an online interview with China News Network.

The year 2024 marks the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia. Bilateral trade between the two countries exceeded $190 billion in 2023, securing China as Malaysia's largest trading partner for the 15th consecutive year.

"Cooperation between Malaysia and China was broadened into many different areas, including trade and investment, culture exchanges, and the energy sector, which leads to the upgrading of the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership,” said Lee.

Lee noted that Malaysia was one of the earliest countries to embrace the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Within the framework, one of the projects called the East Coast Railway Link (ECRL), is important to provide connectivity between the east and west coasts of Malaysia. And the completion of the project is expected to provide an efficient and smooth transport experience for passengers and goods alike and bring enormous economic benefits to the local people.

“The project is expected to generate jobs worth RMB 17.6bn ($4.2bn) during the construction. Trainings have also been given to Malaysian workers, for example, in the ECRL industrial skills training program. Therefore, you can see that there is a transfer of knowledge and skills from China to the local people of Malaysia,” said Lee.

She also stressed that China has always reiterated that they treat Malaysia as a partner and a friend, and they respect ASEAN’s centrality.

“So bilaterally, I think Malaysia and China could work together to revive the momentum of globalization by ensuring goods, services, and people can move more freely. These two countries can have more cooperation, not only bilaterally, but also through multilateral platforms, such as ASEAN to navigate these geopolitical uncertainties,” said Lee.

The recent strengthening of relations between China and Malaysia has been further supported by the relaxation of visa policies. Beginning in December 2023, Malaysia has introduced a 30-day visa-free entry for Chinese citizens, while China announced the expansion of its 15-day visa-free travel policy to Malaysia.

“Due to the visa waiver, my friends and relatives have visited many beautiful places in China, such as Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Xi’an,” said Lee. “So, this mutual visa waiver is a positive development and they have facilitated more people-to-people interaction.”

Besides that, Lee especially mentioned the people-to-people exchanges have also been facilitated by the establishment of an international campus of Xiamen University in 2016 in Malaysia.

“There are a number of Chinese students who have come to Malaysia and get the opportunity through exchange programs to learn about the Malaysian culture,” added Lee. “The same as well, we can see Malaysian students also getting the opportunity to visit Xiamen University’s main campus. Such exchanges will allow students to be aware of and love each other’s culture, such as language, goods, and traditions.” 

Lee recalled that she knows a Chinese girl who studied in Malaysia on a student exchange program, whose culture-sharing content has won her a substantial group of Malaysian followers on social media. “These connections established between young people form the foundation for the ever-strengthening diplomatic relations between our two countries,” Li concluded.



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