Zachary Lau

Zachary Lau


When Malaysia established official diplomatic ties with China in 1974,[1] it was the first Southeast Asian country to do so. This pragmatic move by our then Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein, demonstrated the forward stance of Malaysia, positioning Malaysia to be China’s biggest trading partner in Southeast Asia, as it is today.[2] The investment that flows between Malaysia and China lies increasingly at the heart of growth strategies for both local enterprises and established multinational companies with international aspirations. The diversity of commercial landscapes between Malaysia and China is immense and requires cautious navigation to ensure Malaysia remains the most attractive commercial hub in the region.

The brave step made by the late Tun Abdul Razak in bridging borders with China, despite ideological differences, is observed closely by our current Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who elevated ties with China, evident when China’s President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia within a year after he assumed office. The rich Chinese culture and respect for the language in Malaysia have indubitably attracted China to invest in our country. Being the world’s most widely spoken language, the Chinese language is notably important as our Prime Minister proudly sent his son to study the Chinese language in Beijing. Nusajaya, a development project initiated by our Prime Minister, for example, is a success story that leveraged, amongst others, on Chinese investors. The welcoming attitude in bridging borders with China has positioned Malaysia as a strong economy in South East Asia. Today, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner globally.

The harmonious inclusiveness of the Chinese ethnic in the multiracial community and the warm embrace of the various faiths in the multicultural society has also demonstrated the democratic ideologies that Malaysia upholds as a proud Commonwealth nation. These are the elements that set Malaysia a notch above other nations in the region, positioning Malaysia as an attractive commercial hub in South East Asia. This affirmative attitude in embracing plurality within Malaysia has given Malaysia what it takes to be truly international.

Assets of a nation are not limited to natural resources and scarce land. Human capital, if used wisely, could be a more vital asset. Malaysian Chinese could be utilized as a bridge to foster closer ties with China and our Malaysian Chinese traders could act as ambassadors, witnessing the colourful Malaysia to the Chinese over trade visits or such, bringing in more Chinese tourists and investors. Malaysia, under the pragmatic leadership of our Prime Minister, certainly has much more to offer. It is perhaps time to, not only embrace, but promote plurality in Malaysia, ensuring that Malaysia remains the most attractive commercial hub in South East Asia.


[1] On 31 May 1974, Tun Abdul Razak bin Hussein signed a Joint Communique with then Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai during the former’s historic visit to China, launching a new era for bilateral ties.

[2] In early 2014, Malaysia is China’s top 8 trading partner with $106.07 billion