KUALA LUMPUR – August 23, 2018: Did Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad end his five-day diplomatic trip to China on the wrong foot? An expert in geopolitics thinks he did.
While saying so, geostrategist Dr. Azmi Hassan does not think Mahathir’s seemingly thorny tit-for-tat move following China Premier Li Keqiang tacit intimidation would affect negatively bilateral trade.
Azmi was referring to the cancellation of mega projects, the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) and two gas pipelines, a day after Li rebuffed Mahathir following the latter’s demand for fair and free trade agreements as well as a warning of new colonialism.
“Yes. I think we did upset China. But I believe the hiccup is not as severe to the point of escalating into a full blown trade war such as the one that is currently happening between China and the US,” said Azmi.
The China-US trade war began after Washington accused Beijing of unfair trade practices where it then raised tariffs on US$200 billion of Chinese imports to 25 from 10 per cent. China then retaliated by ordering its companies to cancel most of the remaining soybean orders they had committed to buy from the US.
However, should Malaysia-China trade sours, Azmi believes that Malaysia will the bigger loser.
Economist, Professor Zulkifli Senteri of Binary University, concurred.
“China is our biggest palm oil and electronics importer and their market is way bigger than ours. So a China-Malaysia trade war will do more harm to our economy,” he said.
Zulkfili, however, was also of the opinion that Mahathir’s recent visit to China, despite some seemingly negative outcome, may most likely not lead to such a scenario.
Trade between the two nations grew 14.7 per cent to US$42.7 billion in the first five months of this year compared with the same period last year.