Farewell Malaysia, until we meet again

Former Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Bai Tian waving goodbye at KLIA before his departure.

ONCE again, I leave through the gate of the Chinese Embassy, quietly embraced by its symbolic crimson wall.

Once again, I admire the sky-rocketing Petronas Twin Towers in all their splendour.

Once again, I am overwhelmed by the bustling traffic on Jalan Tun Razak and greeted by the familiar, day-to-day street views.

Everything seems to remain the same yet for me it is anything but, for I am now on my way – not on an official duty, nor for a cordial chat with my friends, but on my way with my family to KLIA, where a flight back to China awaits. For a moment, I am consumed by a myriad of feelings welling up in my heart as memories flashed through my mind.

It is fair to say that Malaysia and I go way back. My ties with Malaysia are predestined early in the days when I was still working in the Foreign Ministry of China in Beijing and I had visited Malaysia quite a few times. But when I set my foot on Malaysia's soil some three years ago, it marked the beginning of my journey as a Chinese ambassador – an “extraordinary and plenipotentiary” title I carry with much honor and responsibility.

Since the day I arrived in Malaysia, I have burnt the candle at both ends for the advancement of China-Malaysia cooperation, the sole and lofty goal shared by all my predecessors.

The past three years have witnessed a fair share of challenges such as the vicissitudes of Malaysian politics and the sudden strike of Covid-19. Nevertheless, no matter how the world changes, China-Malaysia friendly cooperation remains unchanged. The mutual trust between China and Malaysia has become stronger, the prospect of our cooperation broader, the quality of our cooperation higher, and the resilience of our bilateral ties stronger.

We now have more friends in Malaysia from all walks of life. As one who has witnessed and experienced these positive developments – and who has made great efforts to strive for the good result – I can say with satisfaction and pride that I have fulfilled my duty.

How time flies. The three years I have spent in this charming country feel just like a blink of an eye, and the next thing I know, I am heading towards the next phase of my career.
It is time to say goodbye, as we all do so often in our lives. As a diplomat, however, I live a life with fleeting memories, meeting new people and bidding old friends farewell in turn. It is never easy to leave a place behind, but it is extra hard for me to leave Malaysia.

Deep down, I know that part of my heart will always remain here, no matter where life may take me.

I will always remember how the Twin Towers gleam with brilliance under the high noon sun, how the traffic never rests on the North-South Expressway. I will always remember how the waving Malaysian flags and gorgeous parades overwhelm the Merdeka square with pure pride and joy on Merdeka Day, how the smiles of Malaysian people warm my heart like a summer’s day. I will always remember Malaysia by its ravishing islands with sun, sand and sea; by its unique charm of different ethnics and cultures living in harmony.

And I will remember that sense of responsibility and mission when I had pleasant discussions with Malaysian political and business leaders about China-Malaysia cooperation, that feeling of contentment and joy at the re-launching ceremony of the East Coast Rail Lin (ECRL), a flagship Belt and Road Initiative project. I will remember the excitement in my heart when the first cargo of frozen wholefruit Musang King departed for China, and I will remember how Xingxing and Liangliang the two giant pandas in Zoo Negara won the affection from Malaysian children.

I will also remember the moment when I was filled with tears of joy at the launching ceremony of “Gift of Time”, a micro movie celebrating the 45th anniversary of China-Malaysia relations last year; when I was making dodol with my Muslim friends at the first-time-ever Hari Raya open house hosted by the embassy; when I celebrated what I call “the longest Chinese New Year in the world” enjoying the signature Yee Sang tossing, a vivid reflection of the dedication and persistence of the Malaysian-Chinese community preserving their own cultural heritage.

But there is more to remember, like the moment when Malaysian friends from all walks of life devoted funds and supplies actively to China when Covid-19 hit Wuhan; the moment that Malaysian friends chanted "Wuhan Stay Strong”; the moment when Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein said wo men dou shi yi jia ren (“We are family”) at the handover ceremony of the Chinese government’s first batch of medical supplies donation to Malaysia. I will never forget the perseverance and courage in the eyes of health care workers when I handed over donations of medical supplies to Hospital Kuala Lumpur and other places.

I have lost count of how many times I have said the Malay saying “Bukit sama didaki, lurah sama dituruni” (facing the ups and downs together) at various handover ceremonies. This proverb has long been imprinted in my mind just like China-Malaysia friendship has long been engraved on my heart.

It's amazing how 1,095 days just went by in a flash. There are too many unforgettable moments that testify my unbreakable bond with Malaysia. I will take all the precious memories with me, and leave my gratitude and appreciation here.

I am a lucky guy who have received the invaluable help and support from my Malaysian friends from the very first day of my service in Malaysia.

From political and business leaders to civil communities promoting people-to-people exchanges; from think-tanks and experts studying China-Malaysia relations to media friends sharing news and reports on China-Malaysia cooperation; even hundreds and thousands of netizens clicking that “like” button on social media – you are the ones who have planted and nurtured the sweet fruits of China-Malaysia friendship and cooperation, which every one of us is benefiting today. You are my friends to whom I am so much indebted.

Still, on my departure day, I did have some worries.

Today’s world is far from being peaceful. The rampaging Covid-19 pandemic, the rise of populism, protectionism and unilateralism have posed threats to the world. Free trade and economic globalisation are endangered. All these once again remind us that it is of vital importance for us to keep sober-minded in the challenging time.

The international community should continue to pursue peace, development, cooperation and win-win model for all. Multi-polarism and economy globalisation is the right direction human history has pointed us towards.

Fortunately, both China and Malaysia share similar opinions on a myriad of matters such as regional cooperation, upholding multilateral trade system. Both countries are standing on the forefront of curbing Covid-19 pandemic and economic recovery.

With confidence and hope, I expect and believe a more deepened and widened China-Malaysia cooperation will come in the future, with new ways to recover and enhance bilateral trade and investment, increased exchange of talents and resources, more stabilised industrial chain cooperation and the emergence of new economic drivers.

I firmly believe, as long as both countries work together, we can weather any hardship or adversity. China-Malaysia cooperation model, which has made great contributions to both the region and the world in maintaining peace, development, stability and prosperity, will set a good example of bilateral relations for other countries.

The curtain may have fallen on my role as the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, but the story of China-Malaysia friendship and cooperation continues on and the next act is about to begin, which will definitely be more exciting and thrilling.

I will always save a place in my heart for Malaysia, the Malaysian people and China-Malaysia friendship and I will continue to make contributions to our bilateral relations.

It is a pity that I did not have the chance to visit all the states of Malaysia during my office term due to my busy schedule and there is much beauty left uncovered.

Yet, this could also be a blessing in disguise. It may foretell my unfulfilled predestined relation with Malaysia, that I might come back again someday.

Just as a Chinese saying goes, every end is a new beginning. The departure today may be the beginning of a heart-warming reunion in the future.

Goodbye dear Malaysia, until we meet again!

Bai Tian is the former Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Malaysia. He left Malaysia with his family on Nov 27,2020.

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