TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad has undone his predecessor’s debt diplomacy during his five-day visit to China by axing mega projects awarded to Chinese firms.
The Prime Minister was focusing on one goal – to get the country out of huge debts – as he kept up with the hectic programmes in two Chinese cities some 1,300km apart.
After meeting top Chinese leaders, namely President Xi Jinping, Premier Li Keqiang and National People’s Congress chairman Li Zhanshu on Monday, he finally offered his answer to the million-dollar question by announcing that the East Coast Rail Link, Multi-Product Pipelines and Trans-Sabah Gas Pipeline would be scrapped.
The deals were signed during Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s term.
Dr Mahathir had been vocal against Najib’s friendly policies towards China, accusing him of “selling off” Malaysia’s sovereignty.
But the 93-year-old sought to clear his “anti-China” label as he visited Alibaba Group headquarters and automotive manufacturer Zhejiang Geely Holding Group in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, and later met Chinese entrepreneurs in Beijing.
“I explained and proved to them I am still as China-friendly as before and Malaysia is still business-friendly to all,” Dr Mahathir, who appeared fresh and energetic when meeting the Malaysian media on Tuesday, said.
This was Dr Mahathir’s eighth official visit to China as the premier, but his first since returning to power in May.
He led a big delegation of six ministers – Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah (Foreign Affairs), Teresa Kok (Primary Industries), Ignatius Darell Leiking (International Trade and Industry), Datuk Salahuddin Ayub (Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry), Mohd Redzuan Md Yusof (Entrepreneurial Development) and Datuk Liew Vui Keong (Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department).
At Geely, he witnessed the signing of a memorandum of understand (MoU) between the company and Proton Holdings in setting up a production plant to assemble and market Proton cars – a step forward to fulfil his long dream of seeing the national car being sold in China.
Set up in 1983, Proton is Dr Mahathir’s brainchild. In May last year, Najib’s administration sold 49.9% stake in Proton to Geely, a move which was heavily criticised by Dr Mahathir.
During this trip, the Prime Minister was charmed by the advance technology and innovative ideas from the Chinese and realised how far Malaysia is left behind by the world’s second biggest economy.
From Hangzhou, he rode the High Speed Rail to Shanghai, before flying to the Chinese capital of Beijing.
Although impressed, he believed the country is too small for the technology.
“The train travels at a speed of 300kph. It is for long distance, the KL-Singapore line is only 350km,” he said.
Dr Mahathir also visited drone-maker Da Jiang Innovations and National Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation Park of the Chinese Academy of Agriculture Sciences, where he was briefed on modern agriculture techniques and home farming by using artificial sunlight.
He also witnessed the signing of six MoUs in the fields of agriculture, technology, commodity and finance between the two countries.
Astonished by China’s ability to produce their own goods, Dr Mahathir urged Malaysians to take a leaf out of the Chinese book instead of relying on imported goods.
He also appealed for the return of overseas citizens to contribute to the country.
He left for home on Tuesday.
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