Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang (centre) with Semarang assemblyman Datuk Samsolbari Jamali (right) and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong at the Chinese New Year open house in Yong Peng, Batu Pahat, Johor. Pix by MUSTAPHA ISMAIL

BATU PAHAT: Bilateral relations between Malaysia and China are expected to further strengthen this year, in view of the anticipated ‘good fortune’ from the Year of the Goat celebrated by the Chinese, as well as proactive measures taken by both countries.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Wee Ka Siong said among steps taken by the government was the initiative to offer free visas to Chinese tourists to visit the country.

“This year is also very significant (for bilateral relations) because Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang is expected to visit Malaysia.

“The visit will strengthen the bilateral ties and attract more tourists from China,” he told reporters at the SJKC Yong Peng 1 here today.

This will be Li’s first visit to Malaysia after his election as prime minister in March 2013.

Earlier, Wee, who is also MCA deputy president and Ayer Hitam member of parliament attended a Chinese New Year open house organised by the state's MCA branch at the school, which hosted some 3,000 guests from various races.

He said in the middle of last year, the number of tourists visiting Malaysia had declined, following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 on March 8.

"However, since free visas were introduced (later) last year, the trend of tourist arrivals from China has changed, and it bodes well for better bilateral relations between the countries," he said.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia Dr Huang Huikang said his government aimed for at least two million of its citizens to visit Malaysia this year, up from 1.7 million last year.

-- BERNAMA