Anwar: No Tilt Towards China, It’s Just Geographically Closer

Malaysia is not tilting towards China but geographically, the country is closer and a reliable friend and ally, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

The United States, he said, is equally important and a traditional ally, as well as a major investor that has helped propel Malaysia’s economy.

“Cumulatively, the United States stands as number one in terms of our total investments; but increasingly, China has become one of the major investors,” he said during a question and answer session at the University of California, Berkeley in San Francisco.

Professor and Alan P. Bedford Endowed Chair, Political Science Director of Berkeley Apec Study Centre Vinod Aggarwal was the moderator of the one-hour question and answer session.

“China is our neighbour, an important country and has matured in terms of its economic vibrancy, and we would benefit immensely as we continue to engage with it,” said the prime minister. 

“So, I think my point is this, that whilst we have to listen to big powers, they also have to engage and listen to the views and expression of our country. We, as a developing and emerging economy, need to engage and decide what is best for our country.”

On Malaysia and more broadly Asean’s role in the South China Sea, Anwar, who is here for the 30th Apec Economic Leaders’ Meeting said, “Asean did discuss its position. Ideally, we should take a multilateral regional position in this engagement with China”.

”…in the map, as announced recently by China, it does infringe upon our territory or claim, but this falls with China, we have been rather successful in terms of negotiating with the Chinese.”

Anwar believes that the problem is more troublesome and contentious with the Philippines and Vietnam. 

“We are engaging with them too, but our position is to make sure it remains as a regional problem.”

“The solution, of course, is aggressive diplomatic engagement which we are continuing, even within Asean, as I said, with the Philippines and Vietnam, but together, Asean and China”.

Asked about the possible outcome of the bilateral meeting with President Joe Biden and  China’s Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the meeting, Anwar said it cannot be dismissed as a normal sort of discourse.

“The meeting is being looked upon not only by the Apec member economies but also the world.”

“The engagement (could result in some) resolutions. Not necessarily contentious problems of Gaza, Palestine or Ukraine, Russia.”

“But at least trade investments and understanding on these related issues would help instil more confidence into the economy which is required by not only the United States and China but most of the  countries.”

He said better ties between China and the United States would mean immense benefit to Asean countries, including Malaysia.

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