Written by Guan Qiuyun / Translated by Xie Zongming
From 1995 when he first arrived in China to 2008 when he went to watch the Olympics in Beijing, and from 2020 when he used Chinese to record a video clip to pray for Wuhan during the pandemic to 2021 when he thoroughly participated in the 18th China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), H.E. Mr. Raja Dato’ Nushirwan Zainal Abidin, Ambassador of Malaysia to China, has come to China for more than 20 times. His connection with China not only witnessed the fast development of China but also proved China and Malaysia to be good neighbors and partners.
During the 18th CAEXPO, the Ambassador accepted a special interview in Nanning. In his opinion, CAEXPO has become an important platform for China-Malaysia exchange and cooperation. As the day of RCEP’s entry into force coming closer, CAEXPO will be more important in promoting the China-ASEAN partnership.
China-Malaysia cooperation gained practical progress, so did China-Malaysia relations
In Malaysia, the story of Zheng He, General of the Expedition Fleet of Ming Dynasty, who had been to Malacca 5 times, is well-known by the locals. Also in Malaysia, Chinese communities are seen all over the country, for which one can often see signboards in Chinese in the streets. As close neighbors separated by the sea, the friendly exchanges between Malaysia and China have spanned for centuries. Now, China-Malaysia cooperation is stronger in practicality and outcomes, signifying the developing China-Malaysia relations.
According to the remark at the opening ceremony of the 17th CAEXPO by Chinese President Xi Jinping, China-ASEAN relations proved to be the most successful and vibrant example of Asia-Pacific cooperation, which is deeply agreed by Mr. Nushirwan. “President Xi’s words are significant and precise. This kind of mutually beneficial cooperation is not exclusively between Malaysia and China but for ASEAN and China as a whole.” He said that “China, as one of ASEAN’s dialogue partners, can help stabilize the regional situation and facilitate economic development, which is helpful whether to the development of Malaysia and China or to that of ASEAN and China.”
The mutual assistance between China and Malaysia also touched the Ambassador’s heart. When China suffered from the COVID-19 pandemic, Malaysians were there to say “China, Malaysia has your back”. 18 million pairs of medical gloves were shipped to China from Malaysia as aid. Also, when the outbreak occurred in Malaysia, a large number of vaccines were sent to Malaysia from China and a special medical team from China was sent to Malaysia to share the experience of epidemic control, who received the locals’ gratitude in “Xie Xie (‘Thanks’ in Chinese)” and thumbs up once they were recognized. Now China and Malaysia have been through the pandemic and started to work on economic recovery, which is the result of their mutual assistance. “Through this pandemic, the friendship between the two peoples has deepened. In the future, the two countries need to have closer cooperation to jointly cope with the new normal of pandemic control in the post-pandemic era,” said the Ambassador.
It is this special experience of jointly fighting the pandemic that brings new necessities and prospects for deepening China-Malaysia economic cooperation. Though the pandemic brought concerns upon the prospect of economic development, the bilateral trade volume and scale of investment grew despite the pandemic, which showed the resilience and vitality in China-Malaysia cooperation. “In 2020, the trade volume between China and Malaysia increased to US$ 131.6 billion and China has been Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years. In the past 4 years, China has been Malaysia’s largest source of investment. I think the fields of cooperation between the two sides can be further explored and the potential in the industries is still huge,” said the Ambassador, with confidence in the prospect of China-Malaysia economic cooperation.
Regarding people-to-people exchanges, the Ambassador noted that before the pandemic, a considerable number of Chinese tourists went to Malaysia. The statistics show that the number of Chinese tourists traveling to Malaysia in 2019 reached 3.1 million. Meanwhile, educational exchanges are frequent between the two countries. For years China and Malaysia have been sending exchange students to each other and the number of Malaysian students studying in China keeps increasing. These students played an important role in promoting China-Malaysia relations.
To look into the future, what are the key areas of cooperation worth China and Malaysia exploring?
“First, we need to take the RCEP, which will soon enter into force, as an important platform for communication and exchange to further promote ASEAN-China relations. Second, we should provide more opportunities in opening-up for investment and trade by reducing, if not eliminating, trade barriers and promote cooperation in the digital economy between ASEAN countries and China. Third, we need to facilitate people-to-people exchange, especially by establishing the ‘travel bubble’, which is part of the plan of mutually-recognized vaccination certificate,” said the Ambassador, who added that further enhancement on future Malaysia-China cooperation in various fields is right ahead.
CAEXPO to further boost China-Malaysia cooperation
Recently, China and Malaysia have dedicated themselves to building a new situation for practical cooperation at a new level. Both sides want to be partners in trade and investment, industrial cooperation, innovation and development to achieve mutually beneficial cooperation. CAEXPO, a platform that directly promoted the coming and building of China-Malaysia “Two Countries, Twin Parks”, and an important platform for boosting economic and trade growths for the two sides, has been crucial in facilitating the development of China-Malaysia relations and cooperation.
The Malaysian government has attached high importance to the CAEXPO. Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Malaysia has listed the CAEXPO as one of the key expos to be annually supported. Malaysian industry and business communities are enthusiastic about joining in the expo and the scale of participation keeps expanding through the years, signifying the success of the expo. Malaysian products like the Musang King durian, Borneo Bird’s Nest, and white coffee are well received by Chinese customers. Regarding the 18th CAEXPO, the total exhibition area covers 12,000 m2 of land. Leading enterprises of Malaysia like the BOH and the Julie’s showed up in this year’s CAEXPO. “CAEXPO is an important platform, especially for Malaysian products exporting to China,” said the Ambassador.
In addition, this year’s CAEXPO maintained the “Online + Offline Expo” model, with new functions such as Online Exhibition, Live Stream Meeting, and Online Dialogue added to the Online Expo. Also, offline events like live product promotion, release conferences of supply & demand, and one-to-one business matchmaking are supplemented with new features. Viya, a famous streamer in China, and Zaimah Osman, Malaysian Trade Consul to Guangzhou, held the collaborative streaming named “Customer Preferences Day” to introduce quality, featured, and well-responded products of Malaysia. “The online model of China is more advanced than Malaysia’s. Malaysian people gradually come to realize the importance of MSMEs going for online campaigns. This kind of model saves costs. We need to learn to enter the Chinese market via the Internet and utilize this online model to develop, supplementing the infrastructure of e-commerce,” said the Ambassador, who spoke highly of the Online Expo Platform that created an all-year-round CAEXPO.
Under current situation, the platform of China-ASEAN relations and the CAEXPO is becoming increasingly prominent. As Ambassador Nushirwan said at the end of the interview, “With RCEP entering into force soon, the tariff barriers between member countries will be cut down and the rules of trade will be more transparent, which will make the platform of CAEXPO more and more important.”