Malaysia Hails China’s Vision for Belt and Road Initiative as Bold and Ambitious
Malaysia has extended a warm welcome to China’s commitment to openness and its ambitious vision for the future development of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Malaysian Transport Minister, Anthony Loke Siew Fook, who recently attended the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, lauded the leadership of China on the global stage, emphasizing the positive impact of the BRI on developing countries’ infrastructure and economies.
During the opening ceremony of the Belt and Road Forum, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a series of significant steps to bolster high-quality Belt and Road cooperation. These steps include the creation of a multidimensional Belt and Road connectivity network, the acceleration of the high-quality development of the China-Europe Railway Express, participation in the trans-Caspian international transportation corridor, hosting the China-Europe Railway Express Cooperation Forum, and the establishment of a new logistics corridor across the Eurasian continent, connected by direct railway and road transportation.
Minister Loke praised President Xi’s vision, describing it as bold and providing a model that many countries can adopt. The emphasis on sustainability in new energy and key infrastructure projects, according to the Malaysian official, is of vital importance for the development of economies in developing nations and the improvement of living standards for local residents.
A flagship project within Malaysia’s participation in the BRI, the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL), is on track to be completed by 2027. The project’s journey, as Loke noted, has been marked by a decade of learning experiences, challenges, and fruitful cooperation. Despite hurdles during the implementation stage, negotiations between Malaysia and China have successfully addressed and resolved these issues, demonstrating both sides’ openness to dialogue and problem-solving.
With the ECRL’s current construction progress exceeding 50 percent, Minister Loke emphasized that the focus extends beyond project completion. Malaysia envisions a future characterized by deeper collaboration with China, not only in terms of train services for passengers and cargo but also in realizing the project’s full potential, including promoting industrialization along the railway corridor.
Loke explained, “Therefore, we are looking at more collaboration in terms of trade, investment, and bringing factories into industrial parks along the rail corridor.” The railway, spanning from Malaysia’s major transport hub, Port Klang, to Kelantan state in northeastern Malaysia, will connect the country’s less-developed East Coast to the economic heartland on the West Coast.
During his visit to China, Minister Loke engaged with key stakeholders, including representatives from the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) involved in the ECRL, as well as other Chinese companies like China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC) and China Railway Group Limited (CREC). These discussions revolved around potential projects in Malaysia, with a particular emphasis on the direction of the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail.
The multibillion-dollar high-speed rail project, proposed in 2013, aims to cover the 350-kilometer distance between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore in under 90 minutes. Minister Loke revealed ongoing discussions on the project’s implementation, considering various proposals and economic integration opportunities with the ASEAN region and China.
Loke highlighted the importance of infrastructure projects as key drivers of economic growth and development. He firmly rejected the portrayal of BRI projects as a “debt trap,” emphasizing that the Malaysian government’s wisdom and leadership would harness these projects for the benefit of the country.
“We want any infrastructure projects as a catalyst for economic growth and development. And that very much depends on the wisdom of our government and our leaders to fully utilize all these projects to the benefits of our country,” Loke asserted, countering the notion of such projects being detrimental traps.
He concluded, “And if our people say that it is a trap, I think this is an insult to the intelligence of our leadership. Because I think that any infrastructure project must be fully utilized.” Malaysia’s stance on the BRI is one of collaboration, growth, and a vision for a brighter economic future.
As the Belt and Road Initiative continues to make strides, the collaboration between China and Malaysia stands as a testament to the potential of such initiatives to boost global infrastructure and foster economic development. Malaysia’s commitment to leveraging these projects for the welfare of its citizens underscores the significance of the Belt and Road Initiative on the world stage.