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Downplaying claims that China has fully occupied the South China sea, former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad believes the Chinese nation is not a threat but is, instead, an ally in Asia.

For the elderly statesman, who at 96, has kept his ability to dissect the global and regional situation with a breeze, China is not a conqueror. It is a country that wants to make money and wants to work with the ASEAN nations with this goal in mind.

Malaysia, an Asian nation, has many powerful countries surrounding it. China is one of them, but for Mahathir, China never colonised any countries in the region, and it speaks volumes.

“We never became their colony. You (Americans) come here from 1000 miles away you colonise us. Although China is big and powerful, it does not colonise. The Chinese want to make use of you to make money for themselves. And you know the Chinese, they are very good at making money. You have to accept that,”

Nevertheless, in his usual sarcasm, he told Business Today China claims the South China Sea is theirs because of its name.

However, in all seriousness, Mahathir’s viewpoint is that China has done nothing to disrupt the prized trade routes in the South China Sea.

For him, there are no blockades, and Beijing does not send its troops to impose a curfew or stop vessels loaded with containers from cruising through the seas. It shows a lot of China’s real intentions in the disputed waters.


“So far, although they make the claim South China Sea belongs to them, they have not done anything to trample on business in the shipping lanes. They don’t stop ships to examine, or they don’t tax you and all that. We (Malaysia) have an Island that we have reclaimed and is still there,” he says.

For him, it is not the Chinese who are causing the problems in the region. It is the Americans who come from far away continents, trying to impose their rule on Asia.

China’s influence in the global supply chain is evident, to the point where it is now a major economic force, which has not gone unnoticed to Tun Mahathir.

If you plan and scheme against China, you will lose a major market, according to the elderly statesman who led Malaysia with an iron fist from the 1980s to the early 2000s.

Mahathir mentions the defunct Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement now the CPTTP, and expresses his concern that the intentions behind the trade and investment pact were to challenge China’s growth as a global economic powerhouse.

“Well, you know, China is a big economic power, when you design things against it, and you lose a huge market. So I was not keen on the TPP because it excludes China.”

With his renewed concerns about the US’s involvement in the region, it’s only logical for Mahathir to say that ASEAN, and Malaysia in particular, could be jeopardised if they support the US in any policy.

The Americans are against China’s rise and want to compete with Beijing on all fronts.

“But should we become America’s allies? Or China’s allies?” asks Mahathir, who believes the region and Malaysia should remain neutral at best in this ongoing conflicting situation.

His proposal to end the long-drawn conflict in the region is for Malaysia to revisit the old policies of keeping America and China at bay.


For the staunch Asian leader, there is no point in backing a country coming from afar in a different continent because this will not augur well for the region.

“If they want to fight China, let them fight, but we are not going to fight the battle for them,” he launched during the interview conducted at the Perdana Putra Foundation located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.

The location has deep meaning for Tun Mahathir, who took the country out of the agricultural morass to turn Malaysia into a modern and vibrant nation.

The centre is next to the famous Dataran Merdeka where the first Prime Minister Tuanku Abdul Rahman proclaimed independence.

Under Mahathir, Malaysia remained an independent nation becoming the first in Asean to open up to foreign direct investment.

It culminated in an age of prosperity never seen by the Malaysians while he laid down the foundations of a modern state that has since seen major structural defects.

In his first reign as Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir allowed American FDI to flow into the country, but Malaysia became a close ally to the Japanese.

The ties with Tokyo got Mahathir going with a national car project that was rigged with weaknesses and limited in scale. But that did not stop this move to create a successful automotive industry in Malaysia.

It was the age of some technology transfer success from the Japanese to the Malaysians, but it did not last forever.

Today, Mahathir says, the country has a weak government that does not analyse anything properly. “And, you know, governments change policies change. But we should be friends with everyone.

“We have to accept China. China is a part of the world.”

By admin

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