The Prime Minister said that Malaysia was a trading nation that needed the rich countries as markets and cannot “afford to make enemies with anyone”.
He said this in reply to a question on the circulation of a comicbook titled Belt and Road Initiative for Win Winism to educational institutions including national schools.
“In Malaysia, there are many different races and the feeling of race is still very dominant. We don't want our people to think that after we became influenced by the West, we are now influenced by China.
“I believe China will be a great influence in the future but for the moment, it is not for us to promote China's ideas and Chinese ideologies but to find out how we can benefit from them.
“So, we are not going to influence the minds of the young people. The young people must understand the problems, strategies and policies of our own country first.
“As much as we did not like the Western influence in our set of beliefs and schools, we do not want any other country to have undue influence on our young people,” he said.
The comic book made headlines recently after former premier Datuk Seri Najib Razak alleged that it was being distributed in schools.
The Education Ministry has issued a ban, while police said they are taking statements from relevant parties on the matter before taking the next course of action.
Former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau, aka “Superman Hew”, on his Facebook page, defended the comicbook, saying its aim was to educate the students on China’s Belt and Road initiative.
At a question-and-answer session at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (Isis) Praxis Conference 2019 here on Monday (Oct 21), Dr Mahathir said that what is important is good ties for trade purposes.
“We are friendly with everyone. We do not care what system they have. We want to trade with them.
“To trade with them, we have to be friendly with everyone. We are a trading nation. So, we need markets – we cannot afford to make enemies.
“Of course, there will be people who will create difficulties but we have to tolerate them.
“That is why Malaysia is able to trade with almost 200 different countries and has benefited from such trade.
“In the future, that will be our strategy for our country, ” he said,
Dr Mahathir added that as much as Malaysia would be friendly with China, it would remain steadfast in its own beliefs.
“Malaysia has always been regarded as a friend of China except in the early years of independence when China was practising communism and exported it to Malaysia. We do not want that.
“Now, China has a new policy and this policy has benefited China very much, making it one of the richest countries in the world.
“Rich countries are good markets. For Malaysia, there are opportunities for trading and we want to continue with our cooperation with China, ” he said.
Dr Mahathir also said that Malaysia is in support of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, but will not support it blindly.
“We support the idea of 'One Belt One Road' but we have to find out exactly what it is. We cannot just support it without a proper study, ” he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative was proposed by China to renew the maritime and land-based Silk Road that has existed for centuries. It re-organises and consolidates politics, economics, cultures and education in Europe and Asia.
Dr Mahathir added that Malaysia has a different population make-up than China, and mainland Chinese influences are unsuitable here.
This story has been amended to more accurately reflect what Dr Mahathir was referring to.
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