M’sia jumping onto Chinese bandwagon, but at what cost?

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Xi Jinping has decided to revamp the idea behind the glory days of the Silk Road, which once established the Chinese Empire as the most influential power in Asia.

In 2013, China announced its master project, the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative, for which it laid out a staggering estimate of US$1.7 trillion a year according to the Asian Development Bank. This money was, and is, to be used for development, mainly in constructing infrastructure.

Malaysia recently jumped on the Chinese bandwagon. Most of our current mega-projects like the Malacca Gateway and East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) involve the participation of firms from China.

The question now is, what is at stake here? Are we getting a large slice of cake without any repercussions? This article will mainly focus on the impact that Chinese involvement in Malaysian development projects is going to have on our sovereignty.

The first concern is the South China Sea crisis. It is an open secret that China is trying hard to lay its claims to the territories in the South China Sea.

Recently, efforts to put a lid on China’s man-made island building were put on hold as one of its loudest critics in Asean, Rodrigo Duterte, decided to put such concerns aside in exchange for China pledging US$24 billion for the Philippines. As reported by Reuters, some analysts and Asean diplomats have voiced concerns that China is boosting its military capability in the region.

There is a huge question mark over the Kuantan Port project and Malacca Gateway. The Kuantan Port is strategically located facing the heavily-disputed South China Sea, and the Malacca Gateway is currently facing the busy Strait of Malacca.

As far we know at the moment, a major port project by China that failed is the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. The port simply could not generate the revenue it needed to survive. It ended up in a large amount of debt, and was eventually taken over by a Chinese firm.

The same concern applies to the Malacca Gateway. A World Bank study commissioned by the government last year showed that a new port on Malaysia's west coast is not necessary, as existing facilities have yet to reach capacity, according to sources. Both operators at Port Klang - Westports and MMC - have also made expansion proposals that would double the port's capacity. This means the port operation is heavily depended upon Chinese ships, as the Malaysian government verified....

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