Commentary Politics

Why Malaysia should not derail China

September 5, 2018

By Abdul Rahmat Omar

THOSE born before 1978 would probably remember the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” written by Bob Geldof (of the Boomtown Rats) and Midge Ure (of Ultravox) with the opening verses sung by Paul Young, Boy George and the late George Michael.

The song was released in late 1984 with the aim of raising unds for the famine-struck people of Ethiopia.  Famine had struck the country from 1983 and killed more than one million people, with eight million more becoming victims. It was the worst famine of the 20th Century.

That was 34 years ago.  In the capital Addis Ababa according to a CNN report, dirt roads are being replaced by six-lane highways, and the recently-opened Addis Ababa to Djibouti electrified rail services connects the landlocked nation to the Port of Djibouti.

The projects were carried out by China through EXIM bank loans.

Architect Alexandra Thorer, who lived in Addis Ababa as a child wrote her thesis on the city’s urbanisation – “The speed at which Addis grew mirrored the pace of 21st-century urban explosion in China.”

Back in the 1980s, Malaysia was one of the examples of an economic powerhouse, modernisation and moderation.  Globally, we were seen as the voice of the Non-Aligned Movement, where the fourth Prime Minister spoke up against the West.  

But that was three decades ago, just as how Ethiopia was back then when Bob Geldof and friends raised £150 million to help its people through Live Aid.  

Most of the Non-Aligned Movement nations have now sought for development aid from China, especially those in Africa.

Ian Taylor, a professor in African political economics at Scotland’s University of St Andrews noted that Africa as a continent lag behind other developing regions in virtually all infrastructure sectors.  

He says that Western companies and organisation are not offering any money for the development of these infrastructures.

The 32-kilometer Kuala Lumpur to Klang railway line was opened for use in 1886.  It started at the old Kuala Lumpur Railway Station, initially ending at the temporary terminus at Bukit Kuda, and onto Klang when the Connaught Bridge was completed in 1890.  

This alignment passes the tin mining areas of Petaling and Sungai Way. As a result, development in these two areas boomed, and so did the other towns serve by the Federated Malay States railway, just as rivers and roads have contributed tremendously to other areas in the Malay states.

The East Coast Rail Line (ECRL) and the High-Speed Rail (HSR) would have allowed not just developments, but also businesses to boom.  

The ECRL would have allowed businesses from Kota Bharu to arrive in Kuala Lumpur, and vice-versa, in just four and a half hours.

The HSR would have allowed people living in Kuala Lumpur to commute to work in Muar, Batu Pahat and Johor Bahru, and even Singapore on a daily basis.  

Just as the Kajang sate businesses have been brisk since the completion of the MRT Sungai Buloh to Kajang line, both the ECRL and the HSR would have had that effect for thousands more.

But claims of neo-colonialism in view of Chinese investments in this country are not going to make us great.  

Three decades ago, people would have stood up and applauded such claims, but those times are long gone.

If we want to see economic recovery and growth, we need to learn how to keep an open mind towards foreign investments.  

After all, China is only our third largest foreign investor. Western companies including Boeing and Airbus now treat China as a key production and processing base, but China does not treat their presence as a form of colonisation.  

Nor does the US, which has received $175 billion from China up until June 2018, has been turned into a colony.

The China-built Addis Ababa Light Rail system now cut through the heart of the city, carrying at least 113,500 passengers daily.  

Norway is now mulling the idea of having China build a new Stockholm to Oslo high-speed rail. Bangkok plans to build a 2,506-kilometer high-speed rail linking Chiangmai, Nong Khai, Rayong and Padang Besar – all with China’s assistance.  

Other China-assisted railway projects now include the China-Laos railway, the Jakarta to Bandung high-speed rail, the Serbia and Hungary rail link, Moscow to Kazan high-speed rail, and the Lahore automated rapid transit metro system.

Meanwhile, Malaysia, it seems, is contented in playing hero like a mouse threatening an elephant while completely missing the train.

 

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