Search
Close this search box.

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

Published by Tom
Edited: 1 month ago
Published: June 19, 2024
11:38

China and Malaysia: Reinforcing Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact China and Malaysia, two significant players in the Asia-Pacific region, have continually strengthened their economic relations. The bilateral cooperation between these nations dates back to the 1970s, with several agreements and memorandums signed to enhance various sectors. However, with the

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

Quick Read

China and Malaysia: Reinforcing Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

China and Malaysia, two significant players in the Asia-Pacific region, have continually strengthened their economic relations. The bilateral cooperation between these nations dates back to the 1970s, with several agreements and memorandums signed to enhance various sectors. However, with the ever-evolving global economy and increasing competition, both countries recognized the need for a more comprehensive and up-to-date agreement to further boost their economic ties.

Background

The Economic Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (ECSP) between China and Malaysia was first established in 2013, focusing on ten key areas: economic cooperation, trade and investment, science, technology, innovation, culture, education, tourism, people-to-people exchanges, and regional and international cooperation. Since then, both countries have witnessed remarkable progress in several sectors.

Trade and Investment

One of the most significant achievements is the substantial increase in two-way trade. In 2018, Malaysia’s exports to China amounted to US$49.7 billion, representing a year-on-year growth of 12.3%. Likewise, imports from China grew by 15.4% to US$70.8 billion. This trade imbalance has led Malaysia to seek more investments in high-tech industries, where China is a global leader. Consequently, many Malaysian companies have ventured into the Chinese market, establishing joint ventures and exploring opportunities for collaboration.

Infrastructure Development

Another area of cooperation is infrastructure development. China has been an active player in Malaysia’s infrastructure projects, with investments totaling approximately US$22 billion. One of the most prominent initiatives is the 688-kilometer East Coast Rail Link, which will connect the east and west coasts of Malaysia, enhancing transportation connectivity and boosting economic growth.

Cultural Exchange

Beyond the economic benefits, the partnership also focuses on cultural exchange and people-to-people interactions. Both countries have organized various events and programs to promote mutual understanding and appreciation. For instance, the China Cultural Centre in Kuala Lumpur has provided a platform for Malaysians to learn about Chinese history, language, and traditions. Similarly, Malaysia’s participation in the China International Import Expo in Shanghai has showcased its diverse cultural heritage to the global audience.

Conclusion

As China and Malaysia continue to reinforce their economic ties, it is essential to acknowledge the benefits this relationship brings to both nations. Through various cooperation initiatives, these countries have achieved significant progress in several sectors, fostering a mutually beneficial partnership that is expected to last for decades to come.

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

Historical Economic Relationship Between China and Malaysia:

Since the 1970s, China and Malaysia, two significant countries in the Asia-Pacific region, have shared a robust economic relationship. This partnership is marked by Malaysia’s role as an essential supplier of raw materials to China, such as palm oil, natural rubber, and timber. Conversely, China has provided Malaysia with crucial manufactured goods and infrastructure development. The two countries have also been active participants in the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area since its establishment in 2010, fostering greater economic integration.

Recent Tensions:

However, in recent years, this economic partnership has faced challenges due to political tensions. These include issues related to the South China Sea and human rights concerns. For instance, Malaysia has expressed its unease over China’s territorial claims in the region and its construction of artificial islands. Additionally, there have been concerns regarding labor rights and environmental sustainability in Chinese-funded projects within Malaysia.

The Need for a Renewed Economic Partnership:

Given these challenges, it is imperative that both China and Malaysia renew their economic partnership to address the underlying issues and strengthen bilateral ties. This can be achieved through open dialogue and collaboration on issues of mutual concern. For example, China could reassure Malaysia of its commitment to respect international law regarding territorial claims in the South China Sea. Meanwhile, Malaysia can address concerns related to labor rights and environmental sustainability by implementing stricter regulations and engaging in transparent communication with Chinese investors.

Conclusion:

A renewed economic partnership between China and Malaysia is crucial to maintain a stable and prosperous bilateral relationship. By addressing recent tensions and focusing on areas of mutual benefit, both countries can strengthen their economic ties, foster greater regional cooperation, and promote peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

Background

Malaysia, a vibrant and diverse country located in Southeast Asia, holds significant strategic importance for China. This importance can be attributed to Malaysia’s critical

geography

, rich

resources

, and attractive

markets

.

Firstly, Malaysia is situated at the narrow and strategically vital

Malacca Strait

. This maritime chokepoint connects the Indian Ocean with the South China Sea and is a crucial shipping lane for global trade. Approximately 60% of the world’s maritime trade passes through it, making control over this region a strategic priority for major powers like China.

Secondly, Malaysia boasts an abundant wealth of natural resources. The country is the world’s third-largest exporter of palm oil, and it holds significant reserves of natural gas, coal, timber, and tin. Furthermore, Malaysia is a key player in the manufacturing sector within Southeast Asia.

The robust economic relationship between Malaysia and China has been strengthened through various

economic agreements

. In 2018, the two countries signed a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), aimed at deepening bilateral trade and investment ties. The FTA covers a wide range of sectors, including agriculture, manufacturing, services, and intellectual property rights. This agreement is expected to significantly boost economic cooperation between the two countries.

Summary:

Malaysia is crucial to China due to its strategic location at the Malacca Strait, rich natural resources, and position as a manufacturing hub. The two countries have strengthened their economic ties with agreements like the FTA in 2018.
China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

I Economic Ties Before the Renewed Pact

Before the signing of the renewed Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between China and Malaysia in 2017, both countries had established substantial economic ties. These ties were characterized by robust trade exchanges, mutual investments, and a thriving tourism sector.

Trade Figures and Trends

According to link, Malaysia was China’s 13th largest trading partner as of 2016. The value of bilateral trade grew from RMB185.7 billion (approximately US$28.4 billion) in 2010 to RMB359.4 billion (approximately US$54.7 billion) in 2016, representing an increase of about 93%. The trade balance was generally in favor of China, with exports to Malaysia amounting to RMB271.4 billion (approximately US$40.8 billion) and imports from Malaysia totaling RMB88 billion (approximately US$13.6 billion).

a. Breakdown of Exports and Imports

Chinese exports to Malaysia included electronics, machinery and mechanical appliances, chemicals, and textiles. Malaysian exports to China mainly consisted of electrical and electronic components, palm oil and its derivatives, machinery and mechanical appliances, and chemicals.

Investment Flows

Chinese companies had established a significant presence in Malaysia, with investments primarily focused on the manufacturing sector. Some notable investments include Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd., ZTE Corporation, and China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

b. Malaysian investments in China

Malaysian investments in China were primarily made by state-owned enterprises such as Petronas, Sime Darby, and Khazanah Nasional Berhad. These investments were concentrated in sectors like energy, property development, and manufacturing.

Tourism

Tourism

Both China and Malaysia were popular tourist destinations for each other. According to link, in 2015, Malaysia was the sixth most popular destination for Chinese tourists with an estimated 1.4 million arrivals. Meanwhile, over 487,000 Malaysians visited China during the same year.

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

The Renewed Economic Partnership:
Details and Implications

Announcement of the Renewed Economic Partnership between China and Malaysia

  1. Official statements: Both the Chinese and Malaysian governments made official announcements regarding the renewed economic partnership. China’s State Council Tariff Commission announced that Malaysia would be removed from its list of countries subject to anti-dumping investigations on imports of certain steel products. Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob stated that the partnership would boost economic cooperation between the two countries.
  2. Key provisions and objectives: The renewed partnership is expected to strengthen trade ties, deepen economic cooperation, and promote investment between the two countries.

Impact on Various Sectors in Malaysia and China

Manufacturing and Industry

  1. Labor-intensive industries in Malaysia: Malaysian labor-intensive industries, such as textiles and electronics, are likely to benefit from increased demand from China.
  2. Technology transfer and upgrading for Malaysian companies: The partnership could lead to technology transfer and upgrading for Malaysian companies as they seek to compete with Chinese firms.

Energy and Natural Resources

  1. Collaboration on renewable energy projects: China has expressed interest in investing in Malaysian renewable energy projects, particularly in solar and wind power.
  2. Joint exploration of oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea: The two countries have agreed to explore jointly the oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea, which could lead to increased energy cooperation and potential revenues for both countries.

Agriculture and Fisheries

  1. Chinese investment in Malaysian agriculture: Chinese companies are expected to invest in Malaysian agriculture, particularly in areas such as palm oil and rubber.
  2. Potential for increased Malaysian exports to China: Malaysian exports to China, particularly in the areas of palm oil, rubber, and electronics, are expected to increase.

Services Sector

  1. Increased collaboration on tourism, education, and healthcare: The partnership is expected to lead to increased cooperation in the services sector, particularly in areas such as tourism, education, and healthcare.
  2. Opportunities for Malaysian professionals in China: The renewed partnership could provide opportunities for Malaysian professionals to work and study in China.

Risks and Challenges

Geopolitical Tensions

  1. South China Sea disputes: The renewed partnership could exacerbate geopolitical tensions between China and other countries in the region, particularly regarding the South China Sea disputes.
  2. Tensions with the United States and its allies: The partnership could also lead to increased tensions between China and the United States and its allies, particularly regarding issues such as human rights and trade.

Economic Risks

  1. Dependence on China for exports and investments: Malaysia could become increasingly dependent on China for exports and investments, which could lead to economic risks if relations between the two countries sour.
  2. Potential for economic imbalances and unequal benefits: There is a risk that the partnership could lead to economic imbalances and unequal benefits between the two countries.

Socio-Political Risks

  1. Malaysian public perception of China’s growing influence: The renewed partnership could fuel concerns among the Malaysian public regarding China’s growing influence in the country.
  2. Human rights and labor concerns: There are also human rights and labor concerns regarding Chinese investment in Malaysia, particularly with regards to working conditions and labor rights.

China and Malaysia: Strengthening Economic Ties Through a Renewed Pact

Conclusion:

Recap of the Potential Benefits and Challenges

The renewed economic partnership between China and Malaysia offers significant benefits such as increased trade volumes, foreign direct investment (FDI), and infrastructure development. Malaysia stands to benefit from China’s large market, advanced technology, and financial resources. Conversely, China can tap into Malaysia’s rich natural resources, skilled workforce, and strategic location. However, there are also challenges such as the potential for imbalances in trade and the need to address concerns related to labor rights, environmental sustainability, and transparency.

China’s Broader Regional Strategy: Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

The economic ties between China and Malaysia fit into China’s broader regional strategy, particularly the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). This mega-infrastructure project aims to connect Asia with Europe through a network of roads, railways, ports, pipelines, power grids, and fiber-optic cables. For China, the BRI serves as a means to expand its economic influence, enhance its soft power, and secure access to strategic resources. Malaysia, with its geostrategic location and rich natural resources, is a crucial player in China’s BRI vision.

Final Thoughts on the Future of Economic Ties and Regional Implications

Looking ahead, the future of economic ties between China and Malaysia holds great potential. The renewed partnership offers opportunities for mutually beneficial cooperation in areas such as trade, investment, technology transfer, and infrastructure development. However, it is crucial that both countries address the challenges and ensure a level playing field for businesses, respect for labor rights and environmental sustainability, and transparency in dealings. The economic partnership between China and Malaysia also has broader regional implications as it contributes to the larger geopolitical landscape of the Asia Pacific region.

Quick Read

June 19, 2024