KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was unapologetic over the strong Malaysia-China ties, which has recorded an impressive bilateral trade of RM376.63 billion (US$96.3 billion) last year.
He said despite the exponential trade development between the two countries, there was a former Malaysian leader who had wished to undermine ties with the global economic superpower.
"Whenever Chinese investment comes up, he accuses this Government of selling Malaysia’s sovereignty to China.
“On that basis, did we sell our sovereignty to Japan during his time in power?
"One of our partners in building the high income, high skills Malaysia of the future is China’s business community. I make no apology for saying that," he said.
Najib said this in his speech at Malaysia-China Bilateral Cooperation Lunar New Year Luncheon today.
Expressing the irrationality of the former leader’s accusations, Najib pointed out that Malaysia still maintained its sovereignty despite entering a host of economic bilateral ties.
"As it happens, it is still the case that we have had more investment from Japan than from China and Hong Kong in the long run. But as far as I can tell, we are still a sovereign nation.
"In fact, Malaysian investment into China used to be bigger than Chinese investment into Malaysia. Did that mean we were buying Chinese sovereignty? Of course not !
"This is economic illiteracy; anyone who says this, truly has no knowledge of how economics works. It is scaremongering for selfish political gains."
Najib said it would foolish to push away economic opportunities that were built on mutual trust and respect.
"For it would be foolish, and it would be bad for the Malaysian people, if we were to spurn the hand of friendship – a hand that Malaysia, under my father Tun Razak, first offered to China in 1974, making history by being the first Asean member state to establish diplomatic relations with China.
"We were right then, and we are right to welcome Chinese investment now."
Najib said China’s president Xi Jinping had also described Malaysia and China's relationship as being "at an all time high".
"We trade with each other – even the price of durian had shot up, due to the strong demand from the Chinese market, to the benefit of Malaysian farmers.
"We invest in each other; and when appropriate we form partnerships with each other so that we are best placed to take advantage of the economy of the future, and ensure that this really is the Asian Century."
Najib also said Malaysia stood to benefit from Xi's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"A key component of President Xi’s Belt and Road Initiative is that Malaysia stands to reap huge opportunities. It has the potential to create the world's largest platform for economic cooperation.
"As a responsible Government working to promote the Malaysian people’s interests, we embrace the BRI. It would not be in our national interest to turn our back on it."