Students from the UOL programme and the ANU-Student Mobility Programme recently attended a talk, “China and the One Belt, One Road Initiative” by Dr Cheong Kee Cheok, a Research Associate at the Asia-Europe Institute (AEI), University of Malaya. Dr Cheong started his presentation by explaining to the students what “The Belt & Road Initiation (BRI)” was all about and how it correlated to the growth of Malaysia and China’s economic relationship. The reason for BRI, said Dr Cheong, was to utilize the excess steel and cement output in China by keeping state enterprises in China in business while leveraging China’s infrastructural expertise through the internationalization of China’s currency, the RMB.
Dr Cheong pointed out that it was during the period of our former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, that full diplomatic relations between Malaysian and China were established, kick-starting a growth in trade and services, sharing of resources and foreign direct investments opportunities. Dr Cheong then stressed that despite the current market trends, Chinese Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) continues to kick-start a slew of new projects. .
These projects include 1MDB assets sold to state-owned China General Nuclear Power Corp (CGN), the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park, the development of shipping ports in Kuantan (Guangxi) and Melaka (Guangdong), the KL-Singapore High-Speed Rail, the East Coast Rail and the purchase of Malaysian Government Securities. In total, Dr Cheong said, an estimated RM144 billion worth of investments have been signed between both countries. .
However rosy these opportunities are, Dr Cheong theorized that such investments in Malaysia could be a mean to mute Malaysia’s criticism of Chinese actions in other political arenas. Other causes of concern include our former PM, Tun Mahathir ceding sovereignty to China, bailing out corruption scandals like 1MDB and the presence of Chinese military use of Malaysian ports. On a positive note, the BRI launch has helped solved the overcapacity steel manufacturing industry in Malaysia, at our own country’s expense, and given much-needed FDI when other countries shy away. .
This presentation is a series of talks under the Student Mobility Programme between the Australian National University (ANU) and HELP University. It is part of the Australian Government’s plan to enhance ‘Asian literacy’ amongst Australians. They refer to it as the New Colombo Plan (NCP). The programme lasts six weeks and involves lectures, special talks and field trips including one to Vietnam. The first batch of students came in 2017. .
About the speaker
Dr Cheong Kee Cheok is currently a Research Associate at the Asia-Europe Institute (AEI), University of Malaya. A graduate of the University of Malaya, he obtained his PhD at the London School of Economics. Upon his return, he joined the Faculty of Economics and Administration, University of Malaya (FEA, UM), and was appointed first as Deputy Dean, and later Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Administration. His research interests include economic development, transition economies, employment and poverty and international economic relations. .