Wednesday, 20 June 2018

While skeptical of China, Mahathir embraces Jack Ma

Malaysian PM regularly blasts Chinese projects for neglecting his people, but he approves of Alibaba's initiatives in his country

Since his surprise electoral win on May 9, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has taken hard aim at several China-backed investment projects initiated by his predecessor, ex-premier Najib Razak.

With reviews of infrastructure deals and multilateral trade and security pacts now underway, many have wondered whether recent initiatives by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies, could face similar tough scrutiny.

But Mahathir’s meeting this week with Chinese business magnate Jack Ma, Alibaba’s co-founder and executive chairman, signaled the Chinese e-commerce giant’s grand plans for Malaysia will likely continue unperturbed.

Alibaba is in the midst of a massive investment push into Southeast Asia, including the establishment of a so-called “Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ)” based in Malaysia. Launched last November and heavily promoted by former premier Najib, the DFTZ aims to position Malaysia as a regional e-commerce and logistics hub designed to promote small and medium-sized enterprises’ (SMEs) exports.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at