Potential remains high for broader, deeper China-Malaysia cooperation

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Ong Tee Keat, former transport minister of Malaysia and chairman of the Centre for New Inclusive Asia, on the sidelines of a seminar held in Beijing on April 23, 2019. [Photo by Zhang Liying/China.org.cn]

China-Malaysia collaboration can further be enhanced with greater depth and breadth, Malaysia's former Transport Minister Ong Tee Keat said in an exclusive interview with China.org.cn on Wednesday.

He said that both countries and peoples have long-existing ties and a history of mutual engagement, constituting a key building block of mutual trust.

This year marks the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia. Ong said that bilateral ties over the past 45 years have been growing from the initial government-to-government diplomacy to its present stage of mature people-to-people diplomacy in all aspects.

He said that China-Malaysian cooperation is complementary and has mutually beneficial comparative advantages. "Though Malaysia is much smaller in size and might compared to China, it offers a conducive conduit for access to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)."

Malaysia's versatile workforce with its multilingual capability and multicultural exposure is also an asset for China to harness, especially in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Ong said.

At the same time, he noted that there is still much room for the two countries to deepen mutual understanding to facilitate effective and productive cooperation.

The polity in Malaysia as well as the social norms and psyche of the pluralistic Malaysian community deserve more attention from Chinese entrepreneurs and investors, he said.

Enhancing mutual in-depth understanding is crucial particularly in view that both countries may need to be accommodating to address small and minor problems in the implementation of BRI projects, Ong added.

As chairman of the Centre for New Inclusive Asia (CNIA), a Malaysian think tank, Ong has been dedicated to promoting people-to-people exchanges between China and Malaysia in recent years.

He attended a seminar on China-Malaysian cooperation held at the Pangoal Institution on Tuesday and witnessed the signing of a framework agreement for strategic cooperation between the CNIA and the Beijing-based think tank.

"Through my personal experiences, I discovered the profound impact brought about by connecting people, prior to any effective and meaningful economic collaboration that could take place across political borders," Ong said.

Ong's visit to Beijing also includes attending the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation on April 25-27.

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