Mahathir tones down anti-China rhetoric during visit to Beijing

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad struck a conciliatory tone during his visit to Beijing Monday, a s...

Posted: Aug 20, 2018 1:37 PM
Updated: Aug 20, 2018 1:37 PM

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad struck a conciliatory tone during his visit to Beijing Monday, a stark contrast to his earlier sharp language on China.

In the past year, Mahathir has spoken harshly about Chinese investment in his country, alleging that his predecessor hurt Malaysia's sovereignty by signing multibillion-dollar deals with China.

Asia

Beijing

China

Continents and regions

East Asia

Malaysia

Southeast Asia

But on Monday, the Malaysian leader said his nation could "learn a lot" from Beijing. "I believe in cooperation with China because China has got a lot that will be beneficial to us," Mahathir told reporters after holding talks in Beijing with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang.

For his part, Li said both sides were willing to further expand trade between China and Malaysia. "China is willing to further increase imports of Malaysian goods to satisfy the needs of the Chinese market," the Chinese premier said.

The 93-year-old Malaysian leader started his five-day visit on Friday. He toured a Chinese car plant and e-commerce giant Alibaba, and rode China's fastest high-speed train from the tech hub of Hangzhou to Shanghai, before arriving at the Chinese capital.

Although Mahathir has long spoken about renegotiating the terms of Beijing-funded large-scale infrastructure projects in his country, documents signed between the two governments Monday only touched on more modest items, such as cross-border accounting cooperation, and durian and palm oil trade.

Mahathir later met with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during which he said Malaysia welcomes Chinese investments to benefit both nations.

'An old friend of the Chinese people'

When he joined the opposition to topple then-Prime Minister Najib Razak last year, Mahathir strongly criticized the Najib government's business deals with China, especially a massive loan from China to build a rail link.

He warned such agreements could threaten Malaysia's independence -- including its claim in the South China Sea, where an increasingly aggressive Beijing is locked in a bitter territorial dispute with its smaller neighbors.

"We already have big debt, now we are going to owe such a large sum from a single source," Mahathir was quoted as saying last November. "It appears as if we are changing our approach to the South China Sea, that we are willing to give up our claims."

In July, citing their high costs, Mahathir suspended two China-backed projects worth over $22 billion -- the East Coast Rail Link as well as gas pipelines -- that were approved by Najib, who had pulled Kuala Lumpur close to Beijing.

But speaking on Sunday at an elite business forum in Beijing, Mahathir blamed Malaysia's huge debt to China on Najib, who is now awaiting trial for alleged corruption.

"It is not about the Chinese, it is about the Malaysian government," he said. "We are not against Chinese companies, but we are against borrowing money from outside and having projects which are not necessary and which are very costly."

China has been careful in addressing Mahathir's statements since he took office in May, describing the elder statesman as "an old friend of the Chinese people" and praising his "support and participation" in the Belt and Road Initiative, a global trade and investment program championed by Xi.

Mahathir -- who had earlier led Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 -- appears to have softened his stance on China as well, after scoring a stunning electoral victory and returning to power.

In an interview with CNN last month, Mahathir, who still voiced doubts over China's "spreading influence through money," said that Malaysia has to accept the reality of a dominant China in the region and cannot go to war with Beijing over the South China Sea.

"They are more powerful, and we cannot fight against them," he said. "How do we benefit from their wealth and their power? That's what we are looking at now."

West Lafayette
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 34°
Kokomo
Broken Clouds
36° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 30°
Rensselaer
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 34°
Fowler
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 34°
Williamsport
Overcast
34° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 26°
Feels Like: 34°
Crawfordsville
Overcast
33° wxIcon
Hi: 43° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 27°
Frankfort
Scattered Clouds
36° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 31°
Delphi
Overcast
35° wxIcon
Hi: 41° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 31°
Monticello
Overcast
35° wxIcon
Hi: 40° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 31°
Logansport
Overcast
32° wxIcon
Hi: 39° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 32°
Tranquil pattern continues...
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 367329

Reported Deaths: 6122
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion49899902
Lake31027490
Allen21054342
St. Joseph19435249
Elkhart19020249
Hamilton15894184
Vanderburgh11174138
Tippecanoe1041036
Porter951297
Johnson7969178
Hendricks7565165
Vigo6855108
Monroe613955
Madison5960126
Clark585487
Delaware5659108
LaPorte5377106
Kosciusko521449
Howard430580
Bartholomew391566
Warrick372776
Wayne370296
Floyd367080
Marshall347252
Grant334554
Hancock330465
Cass330032
Noble298150
Boone289756
Henry287541
Dubois284834
Jackson271838
Morgan267446
Dearborn258833
Gibson226533
Shelby223562
Knox217524
DeKalb215738
Clinton212725
Lawrence210152
Wabash201825
Miami197318
Adams195924
Daviess179951
Montgomery178029
Jasper174317
Steuben172316
Ripley171325
Harrison169726
Fayette167939
Whitley166117
LaGrange162534
Huntington158212
White156224
Putnam152231
Decatur149646
Wells147136
Randolph145725
Clay143126
Jefferson141119
Posey138422
Scott134027
Greene123654
Jay118817
Sullivan116018
Jennings109617
Starke107628
Fountain9988
Fulton99219
Spencer9918
Washington9169
Perry90321
Carroll83913
Franklin81628
Orange80128
Vermillion77013
Parke7496
Owen74411
Tipton68927
Blackford67317
Rush6688
Newton64015
Pike61021
Pulaski51721
Benton4653
Brown4346
Martin4136
Crawford3722
Union3122
Warren3013
Switzerland2825
Ohio2547
Unassigned0290

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events