KUALA LUMPUR: The ‘Malaysia-China Year of Culture and Tourism 2020’ will further boost ties and strengthen friendship between the two Asian nations, said Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In his congratulatory remarks read out by Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi at the Malaysia-China Year of Culture and Tourism 2020 event here tonight, Dr Mahathir said that the relationship between the two countries can be traced back to the 15th century.
"In 2018, Premier Li Keqiang and I were of the opinion that it is a good time to celebrate the close relations enjoyed by the two nations, and to focus on a people-to-people exchange, via culture and tourism.
"It is a relationship that is rooted in the 15th century, during the golden era of the Melaka Sultanate and the Ming dynasty, and it has flourished since.
"Fast forward to the modern day, and Malaysia and China were the first nations in the region to establish diplomatic ties which bloomed into a relationship that is based on respect and trust.
"May the year of the Metal Rat symbolise the re-affirmation of Malaysia and China’s friendship and cooperation, as well as the beginning of new and firm strides ahead," the Prime Minister said.
Dr Mahathir pointed out that Malaysia is a melting pot of cultures, and that Malaysians of Chinese descent play a significant role in the nation, in all aspects.
"I am also sure that our guests from China will be able to relate (to our diverse) practices, food, customs and cultures, and will probably be able to trace them to specific provinces in China.
"Of course, other cultures, from India and the indigenous groups from Sabah and Sarawak, have a significant influence on (Malaysia). We are proud of our diversity and we believe that what we have is a significant display of multi-culturalism, which has worked and helped us flourish," he said.
Dr Mahathir added that as Malaysia and China’s cultures are tied, so too are their economies.
"For the record, in 1974, Malaysia-China trade was recorded at US$159 million. This rose by almost 700 times to US$108 billion in 2018.
"Malaysia and China will continue to work together for the benefit of both its peoples. With a vision of shared prosperity, we aim to create an economy that is balanced and sustainable, (and ensure) fair and equitable wealth distribution," he said.
Meanwhile, in his speech, Mohamaddin said that Chinese tourists can now enjoy a free visa for up to 15 days in conjunction with Visit Malaysia Year 2020.
"This year will be a very special year for Malaysia in the travel and tourism industry. It is Visit Malaysia Year 2020.
"In this regard, we have taken the initiative to extend a free visa of up to 15 days to Chinese tourists (who will) enjoy the many exciting events planned in the country for tourists from all over the world.
Present at the event were China’s Culture and Tourism vice-minister Zhang Xu and China’s Ambassador to Malaysia, Bai Tian.