PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will be the “grass” that will get trampled when “elephants” like the United States and China fight each other, says an academic.
Politics and international relations expert Asso Prof Lai Yew Meng of Universiti Malaysia Sabah said Malaysia must be prepared for the worst.
He said that with the United States seeking to defend its global status quo against a rising power such as China, it could ultimately lead to conflict of global proportions.
“History has proven time and again that such shifting power dynamics does not augur well for peace and stability of the international order, ” said Lai, who listed the past two World Wars as examples.
He was commenting on the statement by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the US-China trade war is likely to escalate into a second Cold War and Malaysia may be affected by trade sanctions if it does not “fortify” itself in time.
“As the traditional adage goes, ‘when two elephants fight, the grass gets trampled’. The impact of the ongoing US-China trade war has undeniably affected Malaysia’s economic performance. This is expected in view of the nature of our export-oriented economy, which requires a conducive global environment anchored on open fair trade, among others.
“We have to be prepared for such eventualities of great power competition by strengthening our national resilience and enhancing our collaboration with Asean to reduce dependency on both the United States and China, ” said Lai.
Lai said the growing US-China competition and power jousting in the South China Sea was bound to negatively affect littoral states like Malaysia with parts of their maritime boundaries located in the disputed waters.
“Based on the principles of neutrality and peaceful coexistence in the context of such changing global power dynamics, Malaysia must seek to increase its visibility and voice of reasoning in key areas of our national interests in the international arena to secure our national survival and well-being amidst an increasingly volatile international environment, ” he said.
International Trade and Industry Minister Darell Leiking said Malaysia was bracing itself for all eventualities.
“We are prepared for any headwinds at any moment as we will not be spared (if we are not ready for the trade sanctions), but we can be saved by sticking closely to Asean, ” he added.
His deputy Ong Kian Ming said the ministry would not tolerate any practices that would give reasons for the United States to arbitrarily impose sanctions on Malaysia amid its trade conflict with China.
“For example, if we find out or hear any complaints that certain companies are using Malaysia as a transhipment point to get a certificate of origin for their manufactured goods for export to the United States, we (will) take this seriously, ” Ong was quoted as saying in a news portal.