Malaysia hopes China will sympathize with its fiscal woes

Malaysia hopes China will sympathize with its fiscal woes

Malaysia hopes China will sympathize with its fiscal woes

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Monday he believed China would sympathize with his country's "internal fiscal problems" as he seeks to renegotiate, or potentially cancel, more than $20 billion in Chinese-funded projects.

The message from the Malaysian government to businessmen is clear: No more cronyism and no more "kautim" (Cantonese for "all settled") culture.Speaking to Malaysian businessmen assembled in Beijing, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad told them that simply winning over the prime minister was no longer any guarantee that their pitch will come to fruition.

But Mahathir also put on a positive front with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Monday, with the two leaders overseeing the signing of agreements on currency swaps and plans to increase imports of Malaysian frozen durian and palm oil.

This kind of attitude had resulted in Malaysia becoming merely a consumer nation, Dr Mahathir said.

"Nowadays you can't talk to the PM, and the PM says "yes" and the thing is done", Dr Mahathir said.

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Mahathir, a vocal critic of Beijing-backed investment in his country, has tested Malaysia's ties with China by suspending Chinese-backed infrastructure projects.

Mahathir also said he would work to improve ties with China despite "ups and downs" and that Malaysia did not "believe in confrontation with any country".

However Mahathir, who turned 93 last month, offered only a qualified endorsement when Li, addressing him directly, asked whether he believed they had consensus on upholding free trade.

"We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries", he said.

Responding to Dr Mahathir's remarks in China, Najib pointed out that the firms awarded contracts by his administration were China Communications Construction Company Ltd for the East Coast Rail Link and China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau Ltd for two gas pipeline projects.

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