Be cautious in balancing ties between US-China, expert tells Anwar

02 Apr 2023 06:03pm
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang during an official reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. - Pic: BERNAMA
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim with his Chinese counterpart Li Qiang during an official reception at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing. - Pic: BERNAMA

SHAH ALAM - Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has been told to be cautious in the way he balances ties with the US as Malaysia prioritises building stronger ties with China.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) political analyst Dr Abdul Aziz Azizam said the visit by the prime minister to China would have significant implications particularly in light of Russia-Ukraine war and the rising tension between US and China.

"However, Anwar needs to be more cautious about how Malaysia should frame its position in the war of influence between the US and China.

"It is undeniable that Malaysia has a significant economic relationship with China, and China is a promising investment prospect, so we need to be careful so that we are not bullied," he told Sinar Daily.

Aziz added during Datuk Seri Najib Razak's administration, the influence of Chinese companies had become an issue involving the sale of strategic assets including energy assets and development projects like Forest City in Johor, Melaka Gateway, and Bandar Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

"This has affected local companies and the people. In terms of geopolitics, Malaysia may not be a country that can pose any threat to any major power.

"But the perception of the world’s major powers towards this country should be well monitored as Malaysia’s strategic geographical location is a key value to them," he added.

Aziz claimed that China has also been to seek military capabilities in the region which has put pressure on the US.

"I expect that soon, the PM will also visit the US to balance the international perception of Malaysia and somewhat establish Malaysia's position to some extent," he said.

However, International Islamic University Malaysia political analyst Dr Syaza Shukri said Anwar's visit to share was not a problem for the US as it was on expanding trade.

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"It should not affect our relations with the US as it’s not related to defence," he said, adding that Malaysia has a good relationship with the US as shown by President Biden congratulatory note on Anwar’s appointment.

Syaza said Malaysia would strengthened its ties with US in the coming months.

"We also see Tesla and Amazon coming in, so it's a good balancing act."

Echoing Syaza’s view, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Dr Oh Ei Sun commented that visiting China is crucial because Malaysia needs massive foreign investments, and China is the obvious option.

"I am sure Anwar would also make his US debut at some point, likely after the state elections and during the September United Nations opening session.

Malaysia has secured a record RM170 billion worth of investment commitment from China. The amount, the biggest so far from China, is from a total of 19 memoranda of understanding (MoU) sealed between businesses in China and Malaysia.

Anwar was accompanied by Transport Minister Anthony Loke and Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming, and they were met on arrival by China's Vice Foreign Minister Sun Weidong.

Present to welcome him were China’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Ouyang Yujing and Malaysia’s Deputy Chief of Mission to China, Sanmugan Subramaniam.