A walk down memory lane: Mahathir and his positive outlook on Malaysia-China trade ties

 |May 16, 2017
Pic credit Facebook Lim Sian See.

Former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, once upon a time, did not believe China would gobble up Malaysia, speaking in the context of trade.

Contrary to his statements of late with regards to Chinese investments in Malaysia, Mahathir, in a book published in 1994, remarked that despite a history of trade between the two countries spanning 2,000 years, the Chinese have never attempted to invade Malaysia.

Political observer Lim Sian See highlighted this snippet of information on Facebook yesterday, citing Mahathir’s words as published in a book titled Conversations with Mahathir Mohamad by Tom Plate.

“Now, will they gobble up Malaysia, or will you just pay a tribute, or how will that work?” Plate had asked Mahathir.

Plate indicated that before replying, Mahathir waved his hands ‘as if to push off any doubt’, and said, “No, I’ve always told people that we’ve been trading with China for 2,000 years.

“They have never sent an armada to invade us. You know, we traded with Portuguese in 1509. Two years later, they invaded us and colonized us. So, who are we going to be afraid of?” Mahathir said.

Commenting on European countries, Mahathir remarked that their perception of things were different.

“Even in terms of trading. Immediately after they came here, they wanted a monopoly. They wanted a trade agreement. They wanted to set up forts to defend themselves.

“They came in armed regiments, whereas the Chinese, the Arabs, the Indians, came here to trade… since 1,800 years ago, they came to Malaysia to trade,” Mahathir said, reminding that the Chinese, Arabs and Indians had never invaded Malaysia.

The former Premier had commented on China in the context of democracy and how it would not work in certain parts of the world.

Mahathir cited China as an example where pushing for democracy may lead to bigger problems, such as the possibility of a civil war.

“I’m sorry to say, there are countries which will have this kind of problem whether you like it or not. Anymore than you can say, well, China should become democratic. You can’t. This is their way. It’s their way. Since ancient times, China has been ruled by emperors, and you want to say, ‘No, no. You must become democratic!’ You know what happens to China if they become democratic? CIVIL WAR.”

When asked if he thought China had a serious government, Mahathir said yes.

The former Premier also agreed that China made mistakes like any other government, but basically, they were going in a good direction.

Mahathir also noted that if China stayed their course, in 50 years, they would be a ‘really big deal’.

During his tenure as Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Mahathir was no stranger to cultivating a good working relationship with China.

It is of late that he has been critical of Malaysia’s investment ties with China, particularly with regards to the Forest City project in Johor.

The content of Mahathir’s words with regards to China in Plate’s book appear on page 222 and 223.