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The outside world has changed, but will Mahathir?

COMMENT | During his long tenure as prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad brought Malaysia to the centrestage in international relations.

Malaysia became a well-respected leader of the Third World. It was strong enough to take an independent stance in foreign policy, particularly when the US was the sole superpower leading the then-unipolar world.

Mahathir’s personality and his personal beliefs shaped the character of the country’s foreign policy with strong commitments to Asean, the Non-Aligned Movement, and the G77, as well as with taking a critical stance towards the US and the West.

Furthermore, he was admired for his Look East Policy and visionary initiatives with the East Asian community that was strongly opposed by the US.

But the world today has changed greatly. The NAM and G77 are both weak. So too is the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.

Rising in the East

The world is no longer unipolar, but is taking a multi-hub and multi-partnership structure in international relations. The rise of China and a resurgent Russia pose increasing challenges to the US – a superpower in relative decline, but still the most powerful nation with its alliance system and bases spread all over the globe....

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