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About Malaysia

Knowing Malaysia

Malaysia is one of the countries in Southeast Asia. It is made up of 13 states and three Federal Territories covering an area of 329,845sq km. The country comprises two regions: Peninsular Malaysia or West Malaysia bordering Thailand to the north and Singapore to the South, and East Malaysia of Sabah and Sarawak, bordering Kalimantan of Indonesia to the south and Brunei to the north on the Borneo Island across the South China Sea. Malaysia is close to the Equator with a tropical rainforest climate. While Kuala Lumpur is the capital, the newly built Putrajaya is the seat of the Federal Government. The country has a population of 28 million and the Federal Constitution stipulates that Malay is the official language and Islam its official religion.

The Yang di-Pertuan Agong reigns as the Head of State and the Government is led by the Prime Minister elected by the majority party in the Parliament. Malaysia follows the Westminster democratic parliamentary system modeled after the United Kingdom, a legacy of the past colonial rule. Malaysia is a member of the United Nations, Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Co-operation, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation, the Commonwealth, Non-Alliance Movement, Organisation of Islamic Conference and a founding member of ASEAN.

Malaysia’s politics

The Federation of Malaya Constitution promulgated on July 2, 1957 stipulates that the political system of the country is a federal constitutional monarchy modeled after the British. With the establishment of Malaysia in 1963, the Constitution has been renamed the Constitution of Malaysia until today. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected for a five-year term at the Rulers Conference by the Sultans of nine states and the Chief Ministers of Sarawak, Sabah, Malacca and Penang. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is vested with the power to appoint the prime minister, disapprove any proposed legislation and dissolve the parliament. He is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The Parliament is the highest legislature comprising Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) and Dewan Negara (Senate). Dewan Rakyat comprises 222 seats held by MPs elected in the general election for a five-year term.

Malaysia’s economy

Malaysia is rich in natural resources. Its major exports are petroleum, rubber and palm oil. The manufacturing industry is a major contributor to the economy after the 1980’s while tourism is fast catching up as the second biggest foreign exchange earner. In the financial sector, Malaysia has been making vigorous efforts to develop Islamic financing in order to explore the vast opportunity in the Middle East market.

Under the macro-economic planning, Malaysia’s GDP averaged 6.5 percent between 1957 and 2005. In 2007, Malaysia became the third biggest economy in Southeast Asia and 29th worldwide. In 2009,Malaysia’s GDP expanded to US$383.6 billion and its per capita income rose to US$8,100. The economy was largely agro-based during the 70’s but after the 80’s, the manufacturing industry has become the engine of growth. Malaysia’s economy in fact recovered from the Asian financial crises much faster than its neighbouring countries and has returned to the pre-crises level after 2000.

Review of Malaysia-China diplomatic relationship

Relationship between Malaysia and China can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907) when a small number of Chinese emigrated and settled in the Malay Peninsula. About 600 years ago, Admiral Zheng He was commissioned by Emperor Yong Le (reigning from 1402 to 1424) of the Ming Dynasty in making seven voyages to the South Sea to enhance the friendly relationship with neighbouring countries. His legendary voyages spearheaded a flurry of diplomatic activities, resulting in a surge of interactions between China and Malacca. However, China subsequently was shut out by a self-imposed closed-door policy and with the occupation of Malacca by the Portuguese in 1511, the official relationship with China was suspended. The exchanges of trade and visit among the people however continued without any disruptions.

During the turbulent period between the Opium War and Second World War, a new wave of Chinese immigrants settled in Southeast Asia, forming a strong economic and social force. During WWII, overseas Chinese were the biggest financial contributor to China’s war against the Japanese invaders. Chinese settlers in the Peninsula were among the most active in the anti-Japanese resistance struggle which led to the atrocity and economic calamity that befell the Chinese during the Japanese occupation.

The British re-took Malaya after the surrender of Japanese but were met with a surging independence movement. During the struggle for independence, the allegiance of the Chinese came into focus. Eventually, the Chinese and other races went to the polls that led to the independence in 1957. Malaya joined the British Commonwealth as the youngest developing nation. After the independence, Malaya continued the anti-Communist policy inherited from the British and relationship between Malaysia and China deteriorated even further. The freeze began to thaw in the 1970’s with the ending of the Cultural Revolution.

The initial period in the diplomatic ties
It was Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, Malaysia’s second prime minister, who shifted Malaysia’s pro-west foreign policy to middle-of-the-road with a tilt to the left in the hope that it would gain the support of Communist countries for his proposed Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality for Southeast Asia. In due times, he established diplomatic relationships with the USSR and East European nations. A break-through in the Malaysia-China relationship came with the legendary ping-pong diplomacy adopted by Chinese leader Chairman Mao Zedong. The exchange of visits of ping-pong teams and trade delegations resulted in even more intensified interactions, culminating in the historical visit of Tun Abdul Razak to China in 1974. The outcome was that Malaysia became the first ASEAN nation to establish diplomatic relationship with China
Growing from strength to strength
After settling its internal problems, China went into a transformation mode with an open-door policy. It looked up to Malaysia as a model for study and reference. In 1980, A Chinese delegation was in Penang to make a study of the free trade zone in order to help develop Shenzhen as a special economic region. In 1985, a strong appeal was made to woo investments from overseas Chinese and one of the targeted countries was Malaysia. Then in 1989, an accord was reached between the Malaysian government and the Communist Party of Malaya whereby the Malaysian communists gave up their armed struggle and ended a guerrilla warfare that lasted 41 years. By the same token, it also removed an obstacle in the development of a full-fledged relationship between Malaysia and China as the CPM was no more in the way. In 1992, Chinese strongman Deng Xiaopeng made his second tour of Southern China and insisted that the transformation process must continue. This has lifted China from the doldrums and made it an economic juggernaut that is pivotal to the world economy today. During the 1997 Asian financial crises, China resisted relentless pressure to devalue its currency which in turn acted as a firewall in protecting the competitive edge of the regional currencies and enhanced the confidence of investors. The move helped to ease off the crises and eventually to its early recovery. With such consistency in the face of the Asian financial crises and a steadfast and healthy monetary policy, China has proven to the world as a responsible government and has built up a strong reputation for its currency, the Reminbi. Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad who was then the Prime Minister of Malaysia had unequivocally rejected the notion that a rising China is a threat, recognizing the fact that as China rises to become a world power, its influence on global economy and politics would grow in tandem.
2001 until now
All set for a take-off
The dawn of the 21st Century has witnessed the soaring of Malaysia-China friendly relationship and economic co-operation to an unprecedented height. Bilateral trade rose to US$30.7 billion in 2005, a far cry from the US$160 million recorded in 1975 when the two countries first established diplomatic ties. Trade volume surged to US$53.5 billion in 2008, then US$74.2 billion in 2010. The volume of trade had breached the US$90 billion mark in 2011. This just means that trade between Malaysia and China has grown five-folds within the last five years, making China Malaysia’s the biggest trading partner, replacing neighbouring Singapore while Malaysia has also been elevated as China’s biggest trading partner among all Asean nations. It could be foreseen that with the strong support of the Malaysian and Chinese governments as well as the private sectors, the close and friendly relationship between the two countries is all set for a take-off to even a greater height.
2001 until now
I hope that the two countries will work together to create a more harmonious and improved future with the joint efforts and promotion of the bilateral government and people.

Prime Minister’s Special Envoy To The People’s Republic Of China
cum Chairman Of Malaysia-China Business Council

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