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Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad seen here with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang in 2018. - Reuters file pic

KUALA LUMPUR: Chinese premier Li Keqiang has voiced his hope that 2020, which is the "Year of Culture and Tourism" between Malaysia and China, will see greater cultural exchanges and stronger bonds developed between the two nations.

In a statement today, Li paid tribute to the longstanding traditional friendship between Malaysia and China, which he said has lasted for over a thousand years.

“On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to extend my warmest congratulations on the opening of 2020 China Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism and my sincere greetings to cordial and friendly Malaysian people.

“China and Malaysia are two neighbours facing each other across the sea, and our traditional friendship lasts for over a thousand years. During the Ming Dynasty (14-17th century), Zheng He, a Chinese navigator, came to Malacca for five times on his seven sea voyages. A record of China-Malaysia friendly exchanges has been kept in history,” he said.

Li said that in recent years, China-Malaysia relations have enjoyed a stable and healthy development with good cooperation in bilateral and multilateral situations including China-Asean ties.

“Such cooperation benefits our two countries, and also contributes to building a stable and prosperous region.

“I hope that taking the 2020 China Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism as an opportunity, our two sides can further expand cultural exchange and tourism cooperation, encourage more people-to-people visits, carry on our traditional friendship based on increased mutual understanding and lay a solid popular and social foundation for China-Malaysia comprehensive strategic partnership.

“I wish the 2020 China Malaysia Year of Culture and Tourism a grand success,” he said.

In August 2018, Malaysia and China set 2020 as the Year of Culture and Tourism between the two countries for promoting greater people-to-people contact and sustainable socio-economic growth.

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