COMMENT | Today, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, accompanied by Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali and his entourage, will embark on an official trip to China.
He will be accorded with red carpet treatment not only as the prime minister of a friendly neighbouring country but also as a well-respected and long-time friend of the Chinese people.
It will be Mahathir's first official visit to China as the seventh prime minister and it is safe to say that both the Chinese and Malaysians are paying close attention to this visit, maybe even with some expectations.
As the Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia, I do have a lot to expect.
The visit would deepen political trust, which underpins China-Malaysia cooperation, as Mahathir will hold talks with President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang to exchange views in depth.
While this will be the first time our top leaders meet each other since the Pakatan Harapan coalition was elected as Malaysia’s new government, Mahathir is no stranger to China.
His first tenure as prime minister from 1981 to 2003 covered exactly half of the 44 years since the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and Malaysia.
During his term as Malaysia's fourth prime minister, Mahathir visited China seven times. His important contributions to the China-Malaysia relationship laid a solid foundation for the comprehensive and profound bilateral ties we are enjoying today.
Exemplary bilateral ties
I am confident that this time, Mahathir will again seek ways and means to further strengthen and deepen the relationship with the Chinese leaders as well as iron out a new blueprint for the two countries’ future cooperation.
Our two nations share similar aspirations and objectives to ensure lasting peace and stability both domestically and internationally.
The forthcoming visit is a chance for China and Malaysia to show to the world that we have in mind - our bilateral relations as well as the larger picture of the international landscape, and that we respect each other's core interests and major concerns.
We may not see eye to eye on every issue, but we are committed to approaching differences or settling issues through sincere and friendly dialogue like friends and brothers.
This is the key to enhancing mutual understanding and building a relationship based on respect, trust and a win-win cooperation that could serve as a good example of bilateral relations for other countries.
This visit would strengthen mutually beneficial cooperation.
After years of development, there is a lot of economic interdependence between China and Malaysia. China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner for nine consecutive years, the largest investor in Malaysia's manufacturing industry for two consecutive years and the largest source country of foreign tourists to Malaysia for six consecutive years.
Yet we still have huge potential to tap into. The Belt and Road Initiative has more to offer Malaysia as well.
During this visit, leaders of the two countries are expected to reach consensus on many areas of cooperation and witness the signing of a number of MoUs and agreements.
These will enable Malaysia and China to further synchronise their development strategies, take mutually beneficial cooperation to a new level, and seek to harvest more fruits across multiple areas, from trade and investment to agriculture, digital economy, high-tech and tourism, among others.
China always regards Malaysia as a priority partner in investment and cooperation. We encourage creditworthy and best-performing Chinese enterprises to invest in Malaysia.
Concurrently nowadays, as I am aware, there are talks about a few other mega Chinese FDIs coming to Malaysia.
China Construction Bank Malaysia has purchased RM200 million worth of bonds from the local bond market.
In Johor, D&Y, a private spinning company from Shandong province of China, kicked off its Phase II – 118 Thousand Spinning Factory Project recently. When the 3rd phase factory goes into production, hopefully within this year, D&Y’s total investment in Malaysia will reach US$400 million, creating over 2,000 employment opportunities for local people.
What’s more, Jack Ma, chairman of Alibaba Group and Li Shufu, chairman of Geely Group, two world-famous Chinese business tycoons, called on Mahathir in July.
Encouraged by the Prime Minister, they have decided to beef up their investment in Malaysia. This fully reflects the confidence of the Chinese business community in the economic prospects of Malaysia and the China-Malaysia cooperation.
I expect more Chinese companies, after this visit, to invest in Malaysia with mutually beneficial cooperation, create more job opportunities, offer technology transfer and bring more benefits to the Malaysian people.
Historic, blossoming friendship
The visit would promote the time-honoured profound friendship between our two countries.
Having served for eight months as the Chinese Ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, I am deeply touched by the friendship towards China by the Malaysian people.
This historic friendship dates back to ancient times, which has been deeply rooted in our blood. Thanks to the commitment and support of people from the wider communities of the two countries, China-Malaysia relations have grown closer in recent years.
I expect that during this visit, both sides will come up with more ideas to enhance the people-to-people exchange, from areas such as culture, youth, media, think tank, tourism, sports, education, etc, with the aim to ensure our blossoming friendship spans across generations.
New governments, new era
In China, the new government took office in March after the 19th National Congress Party of the Communist Party of China marked the beginning of a new era for socialism with Chinese characteristics.
Here in Malaysia, in May, people witnessed the first ever change of government since the country's independence. Both China and Malaysia are standing at the doorstep of a new era.
With hard work and cooperation, we can all look forward to a better, brighter future. The Chinese government is ready to work with the Malaysian new government to build a stronger, better relationship based on shared interest and mutual benefit.
I am fully confident that there will be a fruitful visit awaiting Mahathir in China. With this milestone visit, I hope China-Malaysia relations will be further enhanced in the days to come.
To advance this important relationship, let us embrace change, seize new opportunities and build on new grounds in order to open up new prospects for the future.
BAI TIAN is the Ambassador of the People's Republic of China to Malaysia.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.