Written by Huang Yunyun / Translated by Xie Zongming
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of China-ASEAN relations. At this point when China-ASEAN relations are entering a new stage, Ouyang Yujing, Ambassador of China to Malaysia, accepted an online interview with our reporter.
The “three advanced aspects” in China-Malaysia relations
Either to ASEAN or China, Malaysia is in a special position. To ASEAN, Malaysia is one of the founding members who are active in creating rules and regulations in the “ASEAN way”, and it plays a significant role in ASEAN development and regional integration. To China, Malaysia is one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with China as well as one of the most active countries to conduct cooperation and interaction nowadays.
“Since China-Malaysia diplomatic relations were established, especially after the establishment of China-ASEAN dialogue relations, there has been leap progress in the relations,” said Mr. Ouyang, “The features of the relations are revealed advanced in the recognition, the friendliness and the condition of cooperation”.
In the opinion of the Ambassador, “advanced in the recognition” refers to the strong recognition in the cultural similarity between the two sides, such as the common recognition of traditional Eastern philosophy like the concepts of “harmony in diversity” and “respecting and treasuring each others’ value”. It is such recognition in concepts and similarity in culture that brings resilience and vitality to the China-Malaysia relations.
“Since I have assumed this position in late 2020, the sincere friendliness and support of Malaysian people for China and China-Malaysia relations are what impressed me the most. These are the most solid foundation for the friendly cooperation between the two countries.” The Ambassador introduced that the friendly exchanges have lasted for ages. From the five stays of Zheng He in Malacca during his seven maritime expeditions to the close high-level exchanges since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia, all of which have contributed to the friendly China-Malaysia ties.
According to the Ambassador, the China-Malaysia cooperation in every area has developed prosperously in recent years, breaking a series of records. Malaysia was the first ASEAN country to have a trading volume of over US$ 100 billion with China. Also, China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years and it has been Malaysia’s largest source of FDI in the manufacturing sector for 5 consecutive years. The East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) is the largest overseas individual project constructed by Chinese companies. The China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park mark the new model of “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, which has set an example for international capacity cooperation. The advanced condition of China-Malaysia cooperation has made Malaysia an ideal destination for Chinese enterprises’ overseas expansion. The “three advanced aspects” are intertwined, paving the way for another fine 30-year of China-Malaysia relations.
The pandemic ties China and Malaysia closer
Sincere relations fear no challenge as true gold fears no fire. The outbreak of the pandemic further shows China and Malaysia the necessity of cooperation. The two sides have gained gratifying results in combating the pandemic and economic development. In terms of anti-pandemic cooperation, China and Malaysia share anti-pandemic supplies and experience and have started comprehensive cooperation in developing, producing, and purchasing vaccines. As for economic cooperation, the China-Malaysia bilateral trade achieved a 5.7% year-on-year growth and China’s new investment in Malaysia reached a 22.6% increase on a year-on-year basis. The Ambassador said, “These impressive statistics are of great significance since it was accomplished under the hardship of pandemic. It was not an easy task.”
Currently, the prevention and control of the pandemic are normalized. Under this situation, finding the impetus for economic recovery has become an extensively discussed topic of every country. On this topic, the Ambassador said that the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing a High-Level Committee on Malaysia-China Post Pandemic Cooperation is a good start if combined with and led by the continued high-quality construction of the Belt and Road Initiative.
About trade, the Ambassador said, “China is willing to further expand the bilateral trade with Malaysia, to promote the transformation and upgrading of trade, to forge closer cooperation on the industrial chain and to develop the service trade with innovation.” The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) signed in November 2020 will bring more opportunities to China-Malaysia trade, to which the high-level free trade environment can be complementary. Here is the example. Asia has become the largest market for automobiles. Meanwhile, under the RCEP framework, lower tariffs on automobile components will greatly integrate the industrial chain and supply chain of the China-Malaysia automobile sector, which significantly reduces the cost of production for the enterprises.
As for investment, China is upgrading the structure of investment to Malaysia, aiming at fields of the digital economy like the Internet of Things and telecommunication, which meets the need of Chinese investors as well as Malaysia’s demand for boosting the digital economy. In addition, the Ambassador thinks that Malaysia’s tropical agriculture and mariculture technology is also worth the attention of Chinese enterprises. “We are glad to see that Chinese investors’ enthusiasm for Malaysia remains high despite the pandemic.” said the Ambassador, who added that he has been encouraging the mutual investment between China and Malaysia and encouraging the investment to the key fields of China-Malaysia economic cooperation, sharing the gain of economic development.
There’s a proverb in Malaysia, “Bukit sama didaki, lurah sama dituruni (Up the same hill we climb, down the same ravine we go)”. The Ambassador believes that the various cooperation between China and Malaysia under the pandemic has strengthened the ties of China-Malaysia ties. After the pandemic, the range of cooperation will stretch vaster and the depth of cooperation will head to a new stage.
Cultural exchange and cooperation to bring new features to relations
“The two countries have always been kind neighbors, good friends, close partners, and harmonious brothers. The two peoples are familiar and kind to each other”, said the Ambassador, and added that cultural exchange and cooperation are always an important part of bilateral relations. Since Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD), China has had an exchange with Malaysia. In Tang Dynasty (618 - 907 AD), Yi Jing the Eminent Monk had been to Malaysia for Buddhist knowledge, which further embodied the spirit of the Maritime Silk Road of Ancient China, which is concordance. Now, the cultural exchange and cooperation between China and Malaysia have stretched to aspects like Cultural Heritage preservation, education, and tourism.
According to the Ambassador, through a collective nomination of China and Malaysia the “Ong Chun/Wangchuan/Wangkang ceremony, rituals and related practices for maintaining the sustainable connection between man and the ocean” was successfully inscribed in UNESCO’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage on December 17th, 2020. “This is a milestone in China-Malaysia cultural exchange and cooperation”, said the Ambassador, “The cultural exchange and cooperation continued despite the pandemic. The activities as such moved to the internet, breaking the offline activities’ limit of time and space, bringing vitality to the cultural exchange and cooperation between the two countries.”
Education is deeply intertwined with culture, which makes it another driving force in cultural exchange. In 2016, Xiamen University Malaysia officially opened to students. In the Ambassador’s opinion, this is an example of successful educational cooperation between China and Malaysia. In addition to this, the Embassy of China in Malaysia has set scholarships and student grants in local universities and colleges to aid Malaysian students to complete their studies. “The resilience and vitality of the educational exchange and cooperation between the two countries are revealed.” The Ambassador said that the number of Chinese exchange students in Malaysia grew in number in 2020, unaffected against the pandemic.
Regarding tourism, the market of China-Malaysia tourism was vigorous before the pandemic. Up to January 2020, the tourists' exchanges between China and Malaysia have exceeded 4 million people, becoming the second-largest source of international tourism revenue for Malaysia. In 2019, Malaysia became the largest source country of tourists in ASEAN (border trips not included). Opening activities of China-Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism, digital cultural tourism under the Malaysia-China Digital Silkroad, Chinese new year celebrated in Malaysia... all of which have become the gateway for the two peoples to enhance mutual understanding.
Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, once said, “Civilizations have exchanged because of diversity; civilizations have achieved mutual learning because of exchange, and civilizations have developed because of mutual learning.” It is during this kind of exchange that the China-Malaysia culture can achieve mutual promotion and development. About the future, the Ambassador said that China is willing to build more platforms of such fields with Malaysia, to broaden the channel of cooperation, to innovate in the method of cooperation, to promote the deepening and cementing of all kinds of cooperation, and to create the positive condition for facilitating China-Malaysia cultural exchange and mutual learning.