Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has called for Beijing’s assistance with his country’s “fiscal problems” during his stay in China, where he is on a fence-mending visit after his harsh criticisms of the Chinese government’s economic policies.
Ties between China and Malaysia have soured since a stunning election victory returned Mahathir to power in May. Upon his inauguration, Mahathir suspended the projects agreed with Chinese state-owned companies under his predecessor, Najib Razak.
Mahathir views those projects – which are worth more than 22 billion dollars and include a major rail link – as “unfair.” The purpose of his five-day visit is to renegotiate, and perhaps cancel, those projects.
During his visit on Monday, he said he did not believe in confrontation with any country and stressed the benefits Malaysia stood to gain from what he called increased exposure to Chinese trade, technology and entrepreneurship.
“We hope also to get China to understand the problems being faced by Malaysia today,” Mahathir told a joint news conference with China’s Premier Li Keqiang on Monday.
“And I believe that China will look sympathetically towards the problems that we have to resolve and perhaps helping us to resolve some of our internal fiscal problems,” he said.
Li, in turn, said his government is willing to promote bilateral ties and economic cooperation with Malaysia.
He added Beijing hoped that a further expansion in trade ties with Malaysia would result in greater balance in two-way trade, and that China was ready to increase “to a fairly large extent” imports of palm oil and other agricultural produce to meet the needs of Chinese consumers.
China is Malaysia’s third-largest export market after India and the European Union.
Li said the consensus reached during their talks and a raft of memorandum of understandings signed during Mahathir’s visit, including on bilateral currency swap, palm oil, rubber and durian imports, sent a message that the two countries would “remain friendly to each other in the long term.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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