Wednesday, 25 July 2018

How far will Mahathir push China?

Malaysian leader's government has frozen China-invested projects and raided Chinese companies in a complex and high-risk negotiation to reset relations

When Malaysia’s opposition alliance notched a historic upset election win on May 9, attention quickly turned to the prospects for various multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects outgoing premier Najib Razak entered into with China.

As the opposition’s prime ministerial candidate, Mahathir Mohamad vowed greater scrutiny of China-linked projects, which on the hustings he frequently criticized for their overreliance on Chinese manpower and materials. This month, Mahathir’s new government issued a stop-work order on major China-linked projects, stalling over US$20 billion worth of contracts in a bid to renegotiate in the name of fairness and viability.

Mahathir, who maintains he wants “good relations” with China, will travel to Beijing next month in a visit that will be closely watched as Malaysia shifts away from the Najib-era transactional model of foreign policy in favor of a more non-aligned stance reflective of the nation’s emerging stature as a regional middle power.

Daim Zainuddin, the premier’s trusted trouble-shooter and head of the country’s Council of Eminent Persons advisory body, was recently dispatched to Beijing to lay the groundwork for Mahathir’s follow-up visit in August and establish a scope for the renegotiation of suspended projects.

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