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UPDATED: 11:18, May 31, 2004
China, Malaysia work for greater cooperation
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Relations between China and Malaysia are at their best and the two countries are working for greater cooperation, Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on May 29.

The prime minister is currently on a five-day visit in China to mark the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

"The leaders of the two countries noted with satisfaction the significant progress in cooperation in the political, economic, trade, culture, education, defense and other fields made by the two countries since the establishment of diplomatic relations 30 years ago," said a joint communique released during Abdullah's visit.

"They expressed their shared commitment to consolidate the existing bilateral relations and work for greater cooperation between China and Malaysia in strategic areas to serve the fundamental interests of both countries," it added.

The two countries established diplomatic ties on May 31, 1974, thus opening a new chapter in bilateral relations. Malaysia became the first country from the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish diplomatic ties with China.

Kuala Lumpur and Beijing have seen upward trend in their relations in the last 30 years, encompassing areas such as economy, politics, cultural, tourism and education.

Sino-Malaysia friendship is characterized by constant exchange of visits by top leaders from both sides.

Among the Chinese leaders who have visited Malaysia were Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Li Peng, Zhu Rongji and Hu Jintao.

On the Malaysian side, its second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein visited China on May 28, 1974. During the visit, the two countries signed a joint communique on the establishment of bilateral ties.

Abdul Razak's visit to China had led to more trips by Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Salahuddin Abdul Shah and former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad who visited China seven times between 1985 and 2003.

Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi, who visited China September last year as deputy prime minister, chose China as the first country outside ASEAN to visit since assuming office.

Bilateral relations between the two countries cover all areas while friendly cooperation in various fields has expanded rapidly in the past decade and more.

From the 1990s, Sino-Malaysia relationship reached the new level of development with close cooperation and contacts in various areas such as trade, tourism, education, cultural, science and health.

With some 1.3 billion population and strong economic growth, China has provided one of the best markets for Malaysian products.

In 2002, with bilateral trade reaching 14 billion US dollars for the first time, Malaysia became the largest ASEAN trading partner for China, replacing Singapore.

In fact, bilateral trade has been on the up trend ever since the establishment of diplomatic relations. Value of bilateral trade increased to over 20 billion US dollars in 2003 from no more than 100 million US dollars in 1974. It is expected to hit 25 billion US dollars in 2005.

In 2000, Bank of China set up its branch in Kuala Lumpur and two years later, the People's Bank of China and Bank Negara Malaysia (central Bank) signed an agreement on bilateral exchange of currencies.

The relationship has been on a win-win situation. Malaysia is China's 18th largest investor, while China is Malaysia's ninth largest investor.

"Future Malaysia-China relations will continue to be characterized by strong economic ties. This is so more with China's expanding economy," said Abdul Rahman, a local economist.

Meanwhile, People-to-people contact has been also on the rise. In 2001, about 460,000 Chinese tourists visited Malaysia and the figure increased to 560,000 in 2002. In addition, some 11,000 Chinese students are studying in Malaysia's various institutes of high learning.

On the international front, China and Malaysia shared similar views on many issues such as on Iraq and Palestine, terrorism, globalization and regional security.

Being a dialogue partner of ASEAN and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), China has shown its seriousness as a responsible partner to help promote regional stability, as evident when it signed the accession to Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) last year to promote regional peace and stability.

By virtue of the achievements made in the past three decades, leaders of the two countries have agreed that they will continue to vigorously boost their friendly cooperation in the years ahead to serve the fundamental interests of both countries.

As the two countries celebrate the 30th anniversary of their diplomatic ties and 2004 being declared the Sino-Malaysia Friendship Year, Kuala Lumpur and Beijing are poised for greater height in their bilateral relations.

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