‘We will be friendly with China, but we do not want to be indebted to China,’ says Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Malaysia was once a loyal partner in China’s globe-spanning infrastructure drive but a new government is now pledging to review Beijing-backed projects, threatening key links in the much-vaunted initiative.
Kuala Lumpur’s previous regime, led by scandal-mired Najib Razak, had warm ties with China and signed a string of deals for Beijing-funded projects, including a major rail link and a deep-sea port.
But the long-ruling coalition was unexpectedly turfed out of power last month by voters disgusted at allegations of corruption and angered at rising living costs.
Critics say many agreements lacked transparency, fuelling suspicions they were struck in exchange for help in paying off debts from a financial scandal which ultimately helped bring down Najib’s regime.
The new government, led by political heavyweight Mahathir Mohamad, has pledged to review Chinese deals seen as dubious, calling into question Malaysia’s status as one of Beijing’s most cooperative partners in its infrastructure push.
China’s ambitious initiative to revive ancient Silk Road trading routes with a global network of ports, roads and railways — dubbed “One Belt, One Road” — was launched in 2013 and is the economic crown jewel of President Xi Jinping’s presidency.