Malaysia keen to attract more Chinese capital
After canceling B&R projects, China tech becomes new ideal for country
Malaysia's canceling of two major Belt and Road (B&R) initiative projects is a "forced" choice because of the country's dim financial conditions, but the move has definitely not signaled any unwelcome signs for Chinese investment, a Malaysian official told the Global Times recently.
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"From my point of view, canceling the China-backed East Coast Rail Link project and the natural gas pipeline project in Sabah was a forced choice, a way out of no ways, based on Malaysian financial conditions at the moment," said Will Fung, chairman of the Malaysian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in China.
"Surveys have found that Malaysia's national debt is on the verge of running into danger. The country really cannot afford such large investment projects, in particular, [when] taking into consideration the costs of maintenance and operations that follow up," Fung told the Global Times in a recent interview.
Mounting debt is one of the many problems that newly elected Malaysian prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is determined to fix with a reform plan, according to Fung.
"In the past decade, the Malaysian public lost confidence in the previous government on such issues as corruption and low efficiency of administration," he said.
"We are really touched by China's understanding about our choice [on canceling the two projects]," he continued.
Addressing media in Beijing at the end of his visit to China on August 21, Mahathir said the Chinese-funded railway and natural gas projects will be canceled for now.
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It was reported that the two projects in total would cost about $20 billion. The initial investment is estimated at tens of millions of dollars.
Despite his remarks on China-funded projects, he called on Chinese companies to continue to invest in Malaysia and increase technology transfer to his country.
This message has been deemed as a mixed signal and confusing. But in Fung's view, the cancelation of the projects is just a case-by-case situation given Malaysia's financial condition, which cannot fully reflect the prime minister's attitude or view on cooperation with China.
"Mahathir is obviously showing to the outside world that his country needs more Chinese technology and talent and he's very welcome of Chinese enterprise investment," said Fung.
"A very interesting thing is that what Mahathir has emphasized is China's technology and talent instead of funds, which is quite different from other countries," he said.
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