The official visit by Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to China, which starts Friday, will open up new prospects for bilateral ties between the two countries, said Bai Tian, the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia.
In an article published on local media Friday, Bai said Mahathir visits China "not only as the incumbent prime minister of a friendly neighboring country but also as a well-respected and long-time friend of the Chinese people."
This will be Mahathir's first visit to China since becoming prime minister in May. He has visited China seven times when he was prime minister from 1981 to 2003, according to Malaysia's foreign ministry.
Mahathir's first tenure as the Malaysian prime minister from 1981 to 2003 covered exactly half of the 44 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia, said the Chinese ambassador.
"His important contributions laid a solid foundation for the comprehensive and profound bilateral relations we are enjoying today," he said, adding that "I am confident that this time around, he will again seek ways to further strengthen and enhance relations with Chinese leaders and iron out a new blueprint for the two countries' future cooperation."
China and Malaysia share similar aspirations and objectives to ensure lasting peace and stability both domestically and internationally, Bai said.
Mahathir's visit is "a chance for China and Malaysia to show the world that we value our bilateral relations and respect each other's core interests and major concerns," he said.
"We may not see eye to eye on every issue but we are committed to resolving the differences or settling the issues through sincere and friendly dialogues in the manner of friends or brothers," said the ambassador.
"This is the key to enhancing mutual understanding and building a relationship based on respect, trust and beneficial cooperation that could serve as a good example of bilateral relations to other countries," he said.
Economic cooperation between China and Malaysia has significantly increased in recent years. China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years, the largest investor in Malaysia's manufacturing industry for two consecutive years and the largest source country of foreign tourists to Malaysia for six consecutive years, said Bai.
"Yet we still have a huge potential to tap into," he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative has more to offer Malaysia as well. During this visit, leaders of the two countries are expected to reach consensus on many areas of cooperation and to witness the signing of a number of MoUs and agreements. These will enable Malaysia and China to further synchronize their development strategies, take mutually-beneficial cooperation to a new level, and reap the fruits of growth in multiple areas, including trade, investments, agriculture, digital economy, advanced technology and tourism, said the ambassador.
Citing Mahathir's recent meeting with Jack Ma, chairman of China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group and Li Shufu, chairman of China's car manufacturer Geely Group, respectively, Bai said China always regards Malaysia as a priority partner in investment and cooperation, and encourages creditworthy and best-performing Chinese enterprises to invest in Malaysia.
"I expect more Chinese companies, after this visit, will come to invest in Malaysia and carry out mutually beneficial cooperation, create more job opportunities, offer technology transfer and bring about more benefits to the Malaysian people," he said.
"The Chinese government is ready to work with the new government of Malaysia to build a stronger relationship based on shared interests for our mutual benefit. I am fully confident that there will be a fruitful visit awaiting Dr. Mahathir in China," Bai said.