GIVEN its plentiful natural resources and relatively untapped market, north-east China could be a stepping stone for Malaysian entrepreneurs to gain access to the mainland, said the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ACCCIM) president Tan Sri William Cheng.
Cheng observes that the north-east region may be rather new to many Malaysian business entrepreneurs as the majority of their investments scatter in the southern and central parts of the mainland.
Hence, investment from Malaysia in north-east China is considerably small.
The noticeable investments made by Malaysians are the Shangri Hotel chain owned by tycoon Robert Kuok and Cheng's Parkson Department store chain. Both groups have presence in the major cities in north-east China.
Talam Corp Bhd also owns a hotel in Changchun.
Cheng said the Chinese government's intention to privatise the state-owned enterprises and revitalise the old industrial base in the north-east region would open up lots of investment opportunities for foreign investors.
According to him, the central government has allocated a budget to carry out the restructuring of the hundreds of state-owned enterprises in the region.
He pointed out that unlike previously, foreign investors did not need to bear the huge debt burden and long-term employment contracts when taking over those state-owned enterprises in the region.
To promote the region to Malaysia, ACCCIM recently organised a one-week trip to four cities – Dalian, Harbin, Changchun and Shenyang in north-east China.
The members of the delegation included Cheng, Sunrise Bhd chairman Tan Sri Lee San Choon, Universitu Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar) council chairman Datuk Seri Dr Ling Liong Sik, IOI group executive chairman Tan Sri Lee Shin Cheng and See Hoy Chan Holdings Group director Datuk Teo Chiang Kok.
During the trip, members of the delegation had the chance to meet city mayors and officers in foreign investment bureaux in each city and province to get to know the investment rules and environment in the region.
It was considered a fruitful trip for Dr Ling, who managed to meet representatives from the Harbin Institute of Technology and executive vice-president of Peking University Huisheng Chi to discuss possible cooperation between Utar and the Chinese universities.
Dr Ling disclosed that Peking University had agreed in principle to cooperate in student and lecturer exchange between Utar and the university.
He said Utar was seeking linkages with other foreign universities to allow students to have “international exploration”.
Both Lee from IOI group and Teo agreef that the trip to north-east China was an eye opener for them to explore investment opportunities there.
Lee found out that the region imported 2.5 million tonnes of crude palm oil (CPO), of which 65% came from Malaysia, although the oil was less popular in the northern part of the mainland because the edible oil coagulated easily during the cold weather.
However, he believes that CPO could be widely used in the future, as researchers have found ways to prevent coagulation.
Lee also commented that the government's move to privatise its state-owned enterprises was a “brilliant idea”.