Home World Malaysia’s Anwar faces balancing act on first China journey | Worldwide Commerce

Malaysia’s Anwar faces balancing act on first China journey | Worldwide Commerce



Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim is anticipated to navigate between deepening financial ties together with his nation’s greatest buying and selling companion and tackling thorny points such because the South China Sea throughout his first go to to China as prime minister, analysts say.

Anwar will meet Chinese language President Xi Jinping on Friday as a part of a four-day go to that can even see him maintain talks with Chinese language enterprise leaders and Premier Li Qiang.

Anwar’s talks with Xi are anticipated to deal with “concrete measures that may be taken within the fields of commerce, political cooperation, prevention of corruption and civilisational points,” Malaysian Overseas Minister Zambry Abdul Kadir stated on Wednesday.

Anwar, who arrived in Beijing on Wednesday, can be scheduled to satisfy with Nationwide Folks’s Congress Chairman Zhao Leji and executives of the China Communications Building Firm, the contractor of Malaysia’s East Coast Rail Hyperlink challenge.

Anwar, who was elected as Malaysia’s tenth prime minister in November, is making his go to towards the backdrop of an escalating United States-China commerce and tech struggle that complicates Malaysia’s efforts to keep up constructive relations with the world’s two greatest superpowers.

China has been Malaysia’s largest buying and selling companion for 14 consecutive years, with bilateral commerce reaching $203.6bn in 2022, however Kuala Lumpur additionally maintains shut financial and safety ties with the US – two-way commerce hit $72.9bn final 12 months – which has sanctioned quite a few Chinese language companies that kind a part of the worldwide provide chain.

Malaysia is the world’s sixth-largest exporter of semiconductors, accounting for six.3 p.c of the world’s complete. The chips, essential parts of on a regular basis electronics, have been a key goal of US sanctions aimed toward hobbling China’s tech sector.

If Malaysia needs to spice up cooperation with China, particularly within the tech sector, it might want to contemplate the opportunity of US strain and easy methods to “navigate the fragile line of advancing technological cooperation for nationwide pursuits whereas nonetheless having the ability to persuade each US and China that such cooperation is not going to have an effect on bilateral relations politically,” Hoo Chiew Ping, a global relations lecturer on the Nationwide College of Malaysia, instructed Al Jazeera.

Additional US sanctions might doubtlessly have an effect on some Malaysian corporations that kind a part of China’s provide chain, stated Ngeow Chow Bing, the director of Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Research.

“To date that hasn’t occurred but on a big scale however that’s one thing which now we have to be careful for,” Ngeow instructed Al Jazeera. Shahriman Lockman, director on the Kuala Lumpur-based Institute of Strategic and Worldwide Research (ISIS), stated Malaysia “will merely must adapt” and attempt to discover alternatives whilst US-China relations develop into extra fraught.

“Anwar is aware of this,” Lockman instructed Al Jazeera. “In China, Anwar is certain to be effusive concerning the relationship. That’s merely what one does in Beijing. In spite of everything, this 12 months is the tenth anniversary of the Malaysia-China complete strategic partnership. And subsequent 12 months is the fiftieth anniversary of diplomatic relations.”

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim is scheduled to satisfy his Chinese language counterpart Xi Jinping on Friday [File: Alexei Maishev/Kremlin via Reuters]

For Southeast Asia, which has historically sought to steadiness its relations with nice powers, the US-China rivalry has been a blessing and a curse.

Malaysia has been among the many greatest beneficiaries of commerce and funding diversion as US and Chinese language corporations search to diversify their geographic publicity to commerce restrictions. A 2019 report by Nomura discovered that Malaysia was the fourth-biggest winner of the US-China commerce struggle, after Vietnam, Taiwan and Chile, with exports of waste and scrap alloy, pure fuel and benzol all benefitting from the tensions.

China’s general direct funding in Malaysia rose to 9.7 billion Malaysian ringgit ($2.2bn) in 2022, up 23.5 p.c from 7.9 billion ringgit ($1.8bn) in 2021. The US was Malaysia’s high supply of funding final 12 months, investing 43.9 billion ringgit ($9.9bn), adopted by Singapore and Japan.

“Anwar is more likely to promote Malaysia because the vacation spot of selection for Chinese language buyers looking for to minimize the influence of the commerce struggle in addition to to search out new markets within the area,” Yeah Kim Leng, an economics professor at Malaysia’s Sunway College and a member of an advisory committee to Anwar, instructed Al Jazeera.

“Since Malaysia imports extra from China than it exports, will probably be an excellent alternative for the PM to push for China to import extra from Malaysia,” Yeah stated.

Yeah added that Malaysia might additionally faucet into China’s quickly advancing digital applied sciences to boost the productiveness and competitiveness of its small and medium-sized sectors.

The South China Sea is a supply of stress between China and Southeast Asian international locations together with Malaysia [Ritchie B. Tongo/pool photo via AP]

Analysts counsel that Anwar will likely be cautious about elevating delicate points throughout his journey, together with China’s remedy of the Uighurs and different ethnic minority Muslims, whose plight he highlighted throughout his a few years as an opposition chief.

“I consider that Anwar will take a practical strategy in direction of China. Being a first-rate minister and now not a mere opposition chief, Anwar can now not afford to make references of a much less constructive character in relation to China. It’s simply what it’s,” stated Lockman of the Institute of Strategic and Worldwide Research.

“So I don’t consider that he’ll be elevating the problem of Uighurs, although he’ll in all probability underscore the necessity to respect worldwide regulation within the South China Sea. Anwar wants to consider Malaysia first.”

Ngeow of Universiti Malaya stated the opportunity of Anwar elevating the Uighur difficulty in personal is “fairly low” however can’t be dominated out. Ngeow added, nonetheless, that the South China Sea dispute – Beijing claims sovereignty over greater than 90 p.c of the strategic waterway regardless of the territorial claims of a number of Southeast Asian international locations together with Malaysia – is more likely to be raised in personal in addition to famous publicly utilizing restrained language.

Chinese language Coast Guard ships have often sailed into Malaysia’s unique financial zone within the South China Sea, the place Malaysia’s state-owned Petronas fuel and oil firm is drilling for hydrocarbons.

In 2021, 16 Chinese language navy plane got here inside 60 nautical miles (112 km) of Sarawak state, prompting Kuala Lumpur to summon the Chinese language ambassador and accuse Beijing of posing a “severe risk to nationwide sovereignty and flight security”. China’s embassy in Kuala Lumpur stated on the time its plane had been exercising “the liberty of overflight within the related airspace”.

Hoo of the College of Malaysia believes will probably be essential for Anwar to debate the South China Sea difficulty throughout his journey. “One predominant difficulty is to keep away from inevitable clashes on the ocean between the Coast Guard and to make sure incidents just like the PLAAF (Folks’s Liberation Military Air Drive) incursion over Malaysian maritime airspace is not going to happen once more in personal dialog,” Hoo stated.



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