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Anwar’s China stance helps ease tensions, preserves Malaysia’s neutrality, say analysts

Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, March 10 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s remark dissuading other nations from confrontational stance towards China was a pragmatic approach to help ease geopolitical tensions in the region while simultaneously preserving Malaysia’s trading ties in the event of an escalation, said analysts.

Sociopolitical analyst Associate Prof Awang Azman Pawi said Anwar’s stance could be rooted in a pragmatic understanding of global power dynamics, acknowledging China’s economic and technological prowess as essential components in the contemporary geopolitical landscape.

“By aligning with a rising global power, Malaysia may seek economic advantages through strengthened trade relations, investments and infrastructure projects.

“Additionally, supporting China’s perspective on regional and global issues might enhance Malaysia’s diplomatic standing and contribute to regional stability.

“However, the effectiveness of these potential benefits would depend on the nuanced execution of Malaysia’s foreign policy and the evolving dynamics of global geopolitics,” he told Malay Mail.

In a speech at the Australian National University in Canberra on March 7, Anwar said that attempts to contain China’s rise would only aggravate the country and sow discord in the region.

He said countries must put themselves in China’s position and recognise how its leaders saw its military buildup and growing diplomatic influence as a natural result of its economic and technological prowess.

Sociopolitical analyst Associate Prof Awang Azman Pawi said that Anwar’s endorsement of China’s perspective may also be driven by a desire to diversify Malaysia’s diplomatic alliances. — Reuters file pic
Sociopolitical analyst Associate Prof Awang Azman Pawi said that Anwar’s endorsement of China’s perspective may also be driven by a desire to diversify Malaysia’s diplomatic alliances. — Reuters file pic

Sociopolitical analyst Associate Prof Awang Azman Pawi said that Anwar’s endorsement of China’s perspective may also be driven by a desire to diversify Malaysia’s diplomatic alliances. — Reuters file pic

Anwar also said the obstacles being placed against China’s economic and technological advancement will only further accentuate grievances.

Awang explained that Anwar’s endorsement of China’s perspective may also be driven by a desire to diversify Malaysia’s diplomatic alliances.

“By publicly supporting China, Malaysia could position itself as a non-aligned nation that values a multipolar world order.

“This approach could enhance Malaysia’s diplomatic flexibility and reduce dependence on traditional alliances, potentially mitigating risks associated with geopolitical tension,” he added.

He also said Malaysia may seek opportunities to leverage China’s advancements in technology and innovation, fostering partnerships that could contribute to Malaysia’s own economic growth and technological progress.

“This aligns with Anwar’s emphasis on recognising China’s technological prowess as a natural outcome of its economic development,” he said.

Separately, Singapore Institute of International Affairs senior fellow Oh Ei Sun said Anwar’s position toward China would open more doors for trade and investment from the country.

“The harsh reality is that China’s economic participation in this country is both booming and visible.

“Malaysia is not in a competitive position vis-a-vis with China, so Anwar could afford to say such things, which apparently pleased China tremendously. So hopefully further trade and investments would be forthcoming from China,” he said briefly.

Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan explained that Anwar’s remark was meant to signal neutrality compared to other countries that involved in the South China Sea (SCS) dispute.

He said Malaysia did not have an apparent leaning towards the West and has not experienced direct confrontations with China in the dispute.

“Compared to Philippines and Vietnam, the way Malaysia tackle the SCS issue is totally different.

“Both these states tilted toward the United States and (are) trying to get them to involved, but on the other hand, Malaysia is being neutral in this matter. We have don’t have military interaction with China despite the problems,” he said.

“We need China in terms of economy benefit and that the same time we are friendly with the US cause they are our second biggest trade partner after China.

“Therefore, Anwar’s recent statement demonstrates that Malaysia, being an East nation, understands China better over its rise. Which is why Anwar said containing China’s rise will only create further turmoil,” he added.

After Anwar’s speech in Australia, Minister at the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia Zheng Xuefang expressed his country’s gratitude to the prime minister for decrying “China-phobia” among the US and its western allies while simultaneously upholding the Malaysia-China friendship.