Munir Majid says Malaysia must not be overwhelmed by the size of the Chinese initiative and had to negotiate bilateral relations that worked for it

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia must ensure that planned investments in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will benefit the country.

CIMB Asean Research Institute (CARI) Chairman Munir Majid said Malaysia must not be overwhelmed by the size of the Chinese initiative and had to negotiate bilateral relations that worked for it.

“It is a very good thing coming at us, but don’t be punch-drunk and think it automatically benefit us.

“We must think of what we want against that initiative and negotiate it in our own interest. China would obviously do likewise,” he told reporters after the Asean Roundtable Series on “China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Asean: Economic Opportunities and Asean Centrality”.

The panel of speakers comprised Managing Director at Asia-analytica and CARI’s Senior Fellow, Pauline Loong, Universiti Malaya’s Institute of China Studies Research Fellow, Dr Zhang Miao, as well as Chairman of the World Chinese Economic Summit and Chief Executive Officer of Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute, Michael Yeoh,

The BRI involves more than 65 countries, including several Asean members, while covering various land and sea routes.

In 2015, China invested close to US$8.3 billion in Asean.

Additionally, total trade between the 10-member regional grouping and China in 2015 stood at US$354 billion, and has seen an upward trajectory since 2011.

Munir, who earlier chaired the roundtable, noted that the BRI would provide the impetus to generate greater economic value to Asean.

He also stressed the importance of having a clear national and regional strategy in respect of the relationship with China.

Meanwhile, Loong cautioned that while the BRI offers promising prospects in the region and beyond, further details were crucial towards attracting the private sector, as the initiative was still in its early stages.

“There is much hype around the topic, but little in the way of specifics. So far, the Chinese government and China’s state-owned enterprises are the driving force behind it.

“However, the private sector – both in China and abroad – have held back due to the lack of details on important issues, such as funding and prioritisation of projects,” she added.

She said businesses must also factor in the political risks inherent in large-scale and cross-border undertakings envisioned in BRI.

“A clear medium to long-term BRI blueprint would go a long way towards strengthening private sector confidence and making the initiative a success in Asean and other countries involved,” she said.

The roundtable was organised by CARI in collaboration with the Asean Business Club.

– Bernama