Kuala Lumpur: ‘The government feels that two of the ambitious projects initiated by China in Malaysia are unnecessary . These projects don’t seem practical for Malaysia. Therefore, We may cancel these two Chinese projects,’ the Malaysian Prime Minister rocked China with these words. Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed has created a sensation by indicating cancellation of the projects, during an interview before starting his China visit.
China has undertaken ambitious projects, under the One Belt One Road (OBOR) scheme in many of the Asian, African and European countries investing billions of dollars. These participating countries are provided loans at a high rate of interest by China and as per reports, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Maldives and many other countries have already been trapped in this Chinese debt. China has started acquiring strategic locations in these countries, in lieu of these loans and there have been severe reactions expressed at the international level about this.
The United States, Australia, Japan, India and even the European countries have started criticising this debt trap and China was forced to adopt a defensive stand in the matter. Countries like the United States, Japan and Australia have undertaken an independent initiative against this debt trap and have started to increase their investments in the Asian countries. Against this background, the statements of the Malaysian Prime Minister to cancel the projects comes as a rude shock to China.
China had developed close relations with former Malaysian Prime Minister, Najeeb Razzak to get Malaysia to participate in the ambitious OBOR scheme. Under this scheme, the agreements for projects like ‘Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Rail Link’, ‘East Coast Rail Link’, ‘Melaka Deep Sea Port’ and ‘Industrial Park’ were signed. China was to provide loans for most of these projects.
But there was a change of guard in Malaysia in the elections held in May, and the new Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed has taken an aggressive stance against China. In the month of June, the Malaysian Prime Minster decided that Chinese projects need to be reconsidered and indicated that China can be replaced by Japan. In the same month, the work of the projects ‘East Coast Rail Link’ along with ‘Melaka – Port Dickson’ and ‘Trans Sabah Gas’ pipelines were suspended.
Malaysian Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohammed has demonstrated that he is firm on his stand by declaring the cancellation of the projects, just before embarking on his Chinese visit. At the same time, he delivered an important message to other countries that more than the Chinese investment, his focus would be on reduction of debt in the Malaysian economy.