(Written by Li Min / Translated by Chen Zhiying)The day before our interview, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, Director of the Board of Directors of the Malaysia-China Business Council (MCBC), just attended an online Spring Festival reception hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia. “It is the first time that the Embassy held Spring Festival reception online. Because the COVID-19 is escalated in Malaysia, everyone has to stay at home during the festival, but the online reception lets us have a different spring festival,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
Besides, what is different is the new situation for China-Malaysia cooperation. The ongoing epidemic and complicated political situation may bring challenges to the future cooperation between China and Malaysia. However, we can see from Dato’ Beh Hang Kong that as the “business envoy” between China and Malaysia, he remains true to the original aspiration of promoting the economic and trade cooperation between the two countries; as a Malaysian entrepreneur investing in China, he has constant confidence in China’s economic development; and as a “half-Qinzhouer”, he has the sincerity to develop the “Two Countries, Twin Parks” between China and Malaysia.
Nongovernmental forces promoting economic and trade cooperation between China and Malaysia
In December 2020, the new list of Board of Directors of MCBC was launched. Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing, Malaysian Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China, became the Chairman, and 14 committees were set up. As one of the directors, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong is mainly responsible for docking with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. This is the 11th year that Dato’ Beh Hang Kong joined the MCBC.
According to Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, when he joined the MCBC in 2010, the Chairman was Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, who had just retired from an important government post. During his tenure, the MCBC has actively promoted the economic and trade cooperation between China and Malaysia and achieved remarkable results.
From creating the “Two Countries, Twin Parks” between China and Malaysia, namely, China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (CMQIP) and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP) to supporting the financing of Malaysia’s largest steel plant in MCKIP, from promoting China’s first well-known university to go overseas and establishing Xiamen University Malaysia Campus to promoting China Construction Bank to set up a branch in Malaysia, all these cooperation achieved by the MCBC has played important roles in developing China-Malaysia relations.
“Because of the need to develop the ‘Two Countries, Two Parks’ between China and Malaysia, Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting was appointed by the Prime Minister of Malaysia and became the Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China. The friendly relations between China and Malaysia enjoy a long history. However, in the past, the Malaysian government did not give full play to the advantage. Some cooperation was mainly promoted by non-governmental organizations. It was until Ong Ka Ting was appointed as Prime Minister’s Special Envoy to China that China-Malaysia cooperation has gained more attention. Since that, the MCBC has more communication and cooperation with Chinese business organizations,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
The MCBC established in 2002, aims to promote bilateral cooperation between China and Malaysia and serves the trade and investment between the two countries. Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, who has joined the Council, has become the “business envoy” between China and Malaysia and has devoted himself to the trade and investment promotion activities between both sides.
Four years ago, with the support from Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, the 2017 Malaysia Durian Festival was grandly opened in Nanning. It was the first time that the Malaysian government held such agricultural product promotion activities themed on durian in China. “At that time, the Ministry of Agriculture of Malaysia was striving for exporting a whole frozen durian to China. The Durian Festival attracted 160,000 people in two days, playing a positive role in popularizing durian in China. Today, the whole frozen durian from Malaysia has been approved to export to China, and is loved by Chinese consumers,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
Since 2011, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong has been participating in the China-ASEAN Expo held in Nanning, witnessing the outcomes achieved by the CAEXPO. “I went to the CAEXPO once before it was permanently settled in Nanning. At that time, most of the places we went to were along the coast of China. Compared with those places, the development in Nanning was slow, so I didn’t have a deep impression of this city before. However, great changes have taken place in Nanning today. To a large extent, I think the CAEXPO has contributed a lot. In promoting the economic and trade cooperation between China and ASEAN, the CAEXPO indeed has played a very important role,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
Dato’ Beh Hang Kong also said that after years of development, the CAEXPO has achieved fruitful results, so he is looking forward to seeing the improvement and upgrading CAEXPO in the future. He hoped that the CAEXPO could further exert its platform influence, promote China-ASEAN cooperation in new areas, focus on the adjustment of industrial layout, and further play the positive role of business organizations in the time of not holding the CAEXPO.
Stories behind the “Two Countries, Twin Parks”
In addition to being a director of the MCBC, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong is also the Vice Chairman China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park (Guangxi) Development Co., Ltd. After nine years of development, the “Two Countries, Twin Parks” has become the flagship project of investment and cooperation between the two countries. Behind this project, there was a story.
In the winter of 2011, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong and Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting went to Beijing on business. They met an old friend, Mr. Ma Mingqiang, the then Secretary-General of the ASEAN-China Centre and Former First Secretary of the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia. “Ma Mingqiang strongly recommended that we go to Qinzhou and said that an industrial park would be built there, aiming to attract some investors. So we changed our original flight from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur to Qinzhou. In Qinzhou, we were warmly welcomed by Zhang Xiaoqin, the former Secretary of Qinzhou Municipal Party Committee. His affinity and sincere attitude deeply moved us,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, “In fact, at that time, the land for developing the industrial park was still virgin land. We could not even enter the park, but have to look at it from a distance.”
However, it was at that time that Dato’ Beh Hang Kong and Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting noticed Qinzhou’s location advantage of locating in the Beibu Gulf and facing ASEAN, as well as its development potential compared with other places in south China. They returned to Malaysia immediately. Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting told the news to Najib, the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, hoping to develop the park with Malaysia as the theme.
“The Prime Minister thought it was a good idea and let Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting continue follow up the relevant issues. Later, after several times of coordination, the two countries agreed to take it as a cooperation project. CMQIP also became the third international park jointly developed by Chinese and foreign governments after China-Singapore Suzhou Industrial Park and Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-city,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong. He also said that on April 1, 2012, the then Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib jointly attended the launching ceremony of the CMQIP.
“Only a few months have passed since we visited the park for the first time. But now at the opening ceremony, the landmark buildings have been built, most of the land has been leveled, and several roads into the park have been repaired, showing the “Qinzhou Speed” and the ability and courage of implementing a project to Prime Minister Najib. And we think that if we can replicate a similar park in Malaysia, the cooperation between the two sides will achieve better results. So we proposed to the Prime Minister” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, “the Prime Minister agreed and welcomed setting park in Kuantan.”
Dato’ Beh Hang Kong said that their initial plan was to build the park in Kuala Lumpur or Johor which are close to Singapore, as in this way the procedure would be relatively simple and fast. However, at the suggestion of the Prime Minister, they finally chose Kuantan and eventually promoted the innovative cooperation of “Two Countries, Twin Parks” between China and Malaysia.
Now it seems that the two parks are a perfect match. “There are many similarities between the two parks: both of which are coastal and have ports; the route from Qinzhou Port to Kuantan Port is the shortest between the two countries; Guangxi Beibu Gulf Economic Zone where Qinzhou is located in a special economic zone, and Kuantan is located in East Coast Economic Region; a small number of Guangxi people in Malaysia almost gather in Pahang, Kuantan; Qinzhou has white dolphins while Kuantan has turtles and other rare animals; Qinzhou has lychees while Kuantan has durian and other famous fruits. All of these are very coincidental,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, “now the development of the ‘Two Countries, Twin Parks’ goes very smoothly and serves as good cooperation.”
Dato’ Beh Hang Kong’s investment confidence in Qinzhou
In recent years, because of the development of the “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong often travels to Qinzhou, China. What made him fall in love with this city was an accident in 2012.
At that time, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong was attending a working conference presided over by Zhang Xiaoqin, the former Secretary of Qinzhou Municipal Party Committee. He suffered a sudden small intestinal vascular burst, resulting in massive blood loss and shock. After the rescue, it is required to carry out an operation immediately. Dato’ Beh Hang Kong accepted the doctor’s advice. But according to relevant regulations, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong must have the signature of his relatives before the hospital can carry out the operation. But At that time, his relatives weren’t in Qinzhou. Finally, it was decided to let Zhang Xiaoqin sign for him. After about 7 hours, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong was out of danger.
“So up to now, I’m very grateful that I can be taken good care of when having an accident, said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, “they often play jokes on me that I am a ‘half-Qinzhouer’ because part of my blood was donated by Qinzhou people. Some people also say that I am not only sweating, bleeding, but also suffering intestinal vascular burst for the development of Qinzhou.”
Undoubtedly, it’s a joke to say so. But in recent years, Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, as an important contributor of the “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, has made great efforts for the development of Qinzhou. Looking ahead, he has more ambitious plans.
“2021 is the first year of China’s 14thFive-Year Plan. With the advancement of the Plan, China’s economic status and influence in the world will certainly be more profound. But at the same time, under China-US trade frictions, China should expand more diversified cooperation and not rely too much on one or two markets,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, “China and Malaysia have always had good cooperation, and both sides can further deepen cooperation in the future. In particular, the development of China (Guangxi) Pilot Free Trade Zone and New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor has brought new opportunities to CMQIP, which further highlighting its advantages. In the future, more and more cooperation will be carried out, and we can take the CMQIP as an example to demonstrate China-Malaysia cooperation.”
According to Dato’ Beh Hang Kong, recently, he is planning to organize a group of investors to build a Malaysia innovation park in CMQIP, so that more Malaysian enterprises can land in.
According to the plan, the innovation park includes three parts:
The first one is a durian base. Dato’ Beh Hang Kong explained: “because durian is very popular in China now, we hope to set up a durian distribution center in the park to gather the whole industry chain of durian processing here, and then combined with logistics, trading center, E-commerce platform, and even auction center, to make the durian base not only a processing, logistics, sales, and exhibition center but also a tourist destination.”
The second is a food processing zone. Especially, we have to make use of Malaysia’s advantages in boasting international halal food certification so that to help Chinese enterprises open up a broader market.
The third is an artificial intelligence (AI) science park. “At present, Malaysia has an AI science and technology park, so we hope to set up a similar one in Qinzhou to promote the interaction and cooperation between the AI parks in two countries,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
Besides building the innovation park, he also has a dream. That is to introduce a Malaysian University to land in the CMQIP and promote the two countries to introduce universities from each other, so as to strengthen the cooperation in academic exchanges and talent training. “After implementing the ‘Three-Zone Co-ordination’ (Guangxi’s three major zones, namely Beibu Gulf Economic Zone, Pearl River-Xijiang River Economic Belt, and Zuojiang River & Youjiang River Revolutionary Base are developing as a whole and advancing coordinately), the government has given many favorable policies, especially in financial innovation. We can also establish a pilot area in that aspect,” said Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
The COVID-19 is still spreading and the political situation in Malaysia is changing. Although these plans have been affected under such a background, we have reason to believe that these two countries’ development plans and dreams will come true one day from the depiction of Dato’ Beh Hang Kong.
Source: China-ASEAN Panorama