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Strong bilateral relations stressed in Anwar speech

By PRIME SARMIENTO in Kuala Lumpur | China Daily Global | Updated: 2024-06-07 10:15
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Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim delivers a keynote speech on Thursday at a regional forum in Kuala Lumpur. Photo provided to China Daily

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has reaffirmed his nation's strong relations with China, as the two sides celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

In a keynote speech delivered on Thursday at a regional forum in Kuala Lumpur, Anwar said China is Malaysia's largest trading partner and key investor, and praised the "progress that China has made in the past decade, especially the vast improvement in the quality of life for hundreds of millions of its people".

"(China's development) is nothing short of spectacular," Anwar told participants at the 37th Asia-Pacific Roundtable. The high-level symposium was held from Tuesday to Thursday and was organized by the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, or ISIS, Malaysia.

Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country to establish diplomatic relations with China. It was also one of the first countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

As Malaysia navigates geopolitical challenges, Anwar said "choosing sides" is counterproductive as it aggravates mistrust and suspicion. "Malaysia was, is and will always be on the side of Malaysia. We are fiercely independent," he said, adding that Malaysia "refuses to be defined by how major powers see the world".

Anwar said Malaysia has a fruitful relationship with both China and the United States and has strategic partners in the Global South. He said Malaysia is part of the Non-Aligned Movement and is faithful to the principle of nonalignment, noting that Malaysia has proved that "dynamic neutrality" is feasible and highly desirable.

On a broader level, Anwar said Malaysia and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations can navigate and engage with both China and the US. As "one of the most peaceful, the most vibrant "economic regions, ASEAN can engage with the US and China based on the principles of equity and justice, he said, citing the need to use this mechanism to upgrade the living standards of Malaysians.

Malaysia is a founding member of ASEAN and will be the bloc's rotating chair next year. Anwar said ASEAN is now in a "position of strength" and that it has served as a primary forum for dialogue, defusing disputes and ensuring wisdom.

He said ASEAN has emerged as "a rapidly evolving economic hub "due to favorable demographics, industrialization, urbanization trends and technological advances.

Anwar said developing countries have developed into "a strategic configuration of growing significance".

"The Global South now represents not just the pursuit of prosperity, but the driver of an emerging global prosperity and growth. In the battle for inclusion in the present, they clearly have a voice not to be ignored in the international order," Anwar said, citing the call of developing countries for the restructuring of the United Nations and the inclusion of the African Union in the Group of 20.

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