China’s GDI: Elevating foreign aid for Malaysia

SINCE 1970, China has played an active role in over 100 aid projects across numerous developing countries globally. In 2020, China’s international assistance through the Global Development Initiatives reached $3.12bil, nearly five times higher than the amount in 1999. Beginning in 2021, the primary beneficiaries of this aid have been developing countries. The total sum of $3.12bil has brought substantial benefits to a multitude of countries and millions of individuals.

China’s vision for Global Development Initiatives (GDI) centres on eight key priority areas: poverty alleviation, food security, pandemic response and vaccines, financing for development, climate change and sustainable development, industrialisation, digital economy and connectivity. These GDI priorities have the potential to pave the way for other countries to attain a brighter future and enhance the well-being of their populations.

On the global stage, China has proactively engaged in offering medical aid, equipment, and personnel to multiple countries through its Global Health Assistance initiatives, with a notable focus during the Covid-19 pandemic. This assistance encompasses a wide array of items, such as masks, test kits, ventilators, sanitisers, and other crucial medical supplies.

Such contributions have not only strengthened the bonds between China and other nations but also underscored their close ties.

In the realm of climate change, China has exhibited proactive involvement by extending humanitarian aid and disaster relief valued in the millions of dollars to countries grappling with natural disasters. These affected nations encompass Nepal, Pakistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, Iran, and numerous African countries. China’s government aid encompasses critical provisions such as food, clean water, medical supplies, shelter, and assistance for displaced individuals.

China’s ongoing global initiatives in the realm of foreign aid have extended to Malaysia. Malaysia has been a recipient of various forms of assistance from China, particularly in bolstering the nation’s development. This aid manifests in diverse ways, encompassing economic, social, and healthcare development initiatives.

China has extended substantial support to Malaysia, notably through healthcare collaboration. Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Malaysia received critical medical supplies and equipment from China to aid in its battle against the infectious disease.

For example, in March 2020, when the country was amid Covid-19 contagion, Malaysia received a consignment of Covid-19 medical equipment that consisted of 100,008 units of Novel Coronavirus (2019-ncov) Nucleic Acid Diagnostic Kit (PCR-fluorescence probing) test kits, 100,000 pieces of N95 face masks, 500,000 pieces of surgical masks, 50,000 units of personal protective equipment (PPE) and 200 units of ventilators.

In addition, China dispatched eight medical professionals to share their expertise and experience in managing Covid-19. This was crucial due to the novelty of the disease and the limited information available, which had constrained Malaysia’s progress in handling it.

An essential aspect to emphasise regarding China’s foreign aid via GDI contributions to Malaysia’s development is its impact on the digital economy and connectivity. China has made substantial contributions to Malaysia’s digital economy through various initiatives and investments. Notably, the Malaysian government and local companies regard China as a dependable partner. Through China’s tech giants like Huawei, ZTE, Alibaba, and Hikvision,

China plays a pivotal role in assisting Malaysia in enhancing its telecommunications technology, thereby bolstering the digital technology ecosystem within the country. The digital economy in Malaysia encompasses a wide range of sectors, including e- commerce, fintech, digital services, telecommunications, and technology innovation.

Through the global development initiative, China has helped Malaysia boost some of these sectors. For example, the expansion of e-commerce in Malaysia.

Through a collaborative effort between China and Malaysia, the country has witnessed tremendous achievements in the e-commerce market. According to a report published by PPRO, 61% of cross- border e-commerce in Malaysia was contributed by China. This indicates that China is an important economic partner for Malaysia.

Through these GDI contributions from China, we can anticipate long-term benefits that extend beyond infrastructure and systems enhancement in Malaysia and other recipient countries.

These contributions have the potential to improve the well-being of the population in various ways, including job creation to reduce unemployment rates, the introduction of high-quality digital education, and the advancement of technology to provide better access to a wide array of healthcare solutions such as personalised wellness, emotional support, and inclusivity.

China and Malaysia have a shared interest in trade and economic cooperation. These two nations have fortified their economic connections through various agreements and collaborations, including trade deals and investment partnerships, which contribute to the mutual benefit of economic growth and development for both countries.

Within the GDI framework, in July 2023, the Chinese government unveiled plans to undertake 11 foreign development projects with a primary focus on infrastructure, including power plants, hospitals, and public transport.

This signifies a substantial investment exceeding US$1 trillion from China aimed at bolstering global development, which in turn benefits recipient nations, including Malaysia.

These initiatives serve as robust drivers of economic growth and enhanced social well-being for the people in these recipient countries, contributing to the creation of a brighter future for global citizens. Moreover, this aid serves as tangible evidence of the strong and enduring relationships between China and Malaysia, as well as China and other nations.

China’s foreign aid to Malaysia is anticipated to create additional opportunities for its people, ultimately reinforcing Malaysia’s economic ecosystem. This, in turn, has the potential to contribute to the country’s overall well-being, resilience, and sustainability.

Dr. Nur Hairani Abd Rahman is a Senior Lecturer at Faculty of Business and Economics, Universiti Malaya. The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

The SEARCH Scholar Series is a social responsibility programme jointly organised by the Southeast Asia Research Centre for Humanities (SEARCH) and Tunku Abdul Rahman University of Management and Technology (TAR UMT), in conjunction with the 10-year anniversary of the Belt and Road Initiative.

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