PM: No policy change towards China

JAPAN-MALAYSIA-MAHATHIR

China, Malaysia to push forward bilateral ties, economic cooperation

Malaysia doesn't believe in confrontation, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says as he hopes to expand trade with China in a meeting with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in Beijing.

The comments served as a reminder of Mahathir's criticisms of Beijing on the campaign trail, when he said " we gain nothing" from Chinese investment and warned of selling off the country to foreigners.

Dr Mahathir delivering his speech at the China Entrepreneur Leaders Forum.

He also said that there would be continuity in Malaysia's policy towards China.

The cancellation of projects in Malaysia world create huge losses for the Chinese partners involved, said Jia Duqiang, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Science's Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies.

The 93-year-old Malaysian leader started his five-day visit on Friday.

Among the deals signed between the two countries on Monday was a memorandum of understanding on a bilateral currency swap agreement.

Dr Mahathir also made it clear what was the new Malaysian government's stand with regard to investments from China.

Along with their economic frictions, China and Malaysia are parties to the dispute over waters and islands in the South China Sea.

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"We already have big debt, now we are going to owe such a large sum from a single source", Mahathir was quoted as saying last November.

In July, citing their high costs, Mahathir suspended two China-backed projects worth over $22 billion - the East Coast Rail Link as well as gas pipelines - that were approved by Najib, who had pulled Kuala Lumpur close to Beijing.

The country has charged former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak with money laundering, criminal breach of trust and abuse in relation to the transfer of RM42 million from a former 1MDB unit.

"It is not about the Chinese, it is about the Malaysian government", he said.

"We are not against Chinese companies, but we are against borrowing money from outside and having projects which are unnecessary, and which are very costly", he said.

In this regard, Chinese businessmen were welcome to invest in Malaysia, he said when addressing some 400 top Chinese entrepreneurs and business leaders here yesterday.

Mahathir - who had earlier led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 - appears to have softened his stance on China as well, after scoring a stunning electoral victory and returning to power.

"Mahathir is anxious about Malaysia's ability to proceed with the projects, but there are also political factors because the projects had been decided by the former government, " Mr Jia said.

"But maybe with the help of all of you, we can achieve it before that", he said.

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