PETALING JAYA: China has been reminded that it has a moral obligation in its role as a global economic and political leader in an impending “Asian Century”.
The National Patriot Association (Patriot) and G25 group of eminent Malays said recent news reports over corruption allegations surrounding its senior officials on 1MDB has raised serious concerns on whether the execution of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Malaysia and other countries is a “noble win-win” global trade connectedness or something sinister.
This is coupled with China’s questionable stance on global human rights, its claim of the South China Sea, military installations on artificial islands, and about China’s moral leadership.
In a joint statement, the two groups said China’s leadership role is recognised and is much in need for the impending Asian Century, as it records a 6.6% GDP growth, the highest compared with any developed or emerging economies.
“Patriot and G25 Malaysia are of the view that China’s economic and political leadership has to also bond with moral leadership,” it said on Tuesday (Jan 29).
It said that Malaysia and other Asean countries welcome China’s BRI investment and projects, but it has to come together with transparency, accountability and good governance.
To this, the two groups said that it is in the best interest of all that BRI projects should be included in the Asean agenda and the Asean dialogue process.
At the same time, it acknowledged that BRI projects in certain countries were criticised by Western observers that it may not be economically and financially viable, adding that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had warned of excessive debt in a number of countries such as Maldives, Kyrgyz Republic, Laos, Tajikistan and Pakistan.
“Tajikistan in 2011 had to give up thousands of square kilometres of territory in exchange for debt write off. In 2017, Sri Lanka had to hand over the Hambantota port on a 99-year lease for failure to settle debt,” it said.
“Patriot and G25 Malaysia are of the view that BRI projects by China should indeed be a win-win for all, taking into consideration the welfare of the local people and the economic well being of the participating developing countries,” it added.
Meanwhile, the two groups also touched on China’s controversial relationship with the Myanmar military which had led to a constitutional problem in the impoverished country, and its treatment of ethnic Uighurs.
“China should allow a UN human rights team to make an independent visit and ascertain the conditions with regard to the condition of the Uighurs including reports about the internment camps.
“Clearly, China is under a moral obligation to cooperate within the UN system and civil society organisations to address this alarming situation.”
The two groups said that China must respect the relevant provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, adding that every Asean country has rights to its 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
“Anything less will see China as a big bully thrashing any remaining bit of moral leadership. Demilitarisation of the South China Sea and respect for ZOPFAN (Zone of peace, Freedom and Neutrality), the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-East Asia (TAC) and an early agreement on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea would go a long way for China to gain respect,” it said.
“Patriot and G25 Malaysia welcome China’s role, along with a moral leadership in an eventual Asian Century,” it added.