The three-day trip to China from Aug 18
is no ordinary visit. It is to celebrate
the 25 years of diplomatic ties between Malaysia and China.
But political analysts see the visit as more than just a diplomatic exercise.
For many, photographs of meetings between Dr Mahathir and
Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Zhu
Rongji would be reminiscent of the
visit by the late Tun Abdul Razak
Photographs of Razak meeting Chairman
Mao in Beijing were later reproduced and used as posters in the 1976 general election.
Razak's visit went down extremely well with the Chinese electorate as it paved the way for normal diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Since then, Malaysia and China have
enjoyed excellent ties; Dr Mahathir himself
has made over five trips there.
Writing in the Japanese daily Mainichi
Shimbun last week, Dr Mahathir praised
China for deciding not to devalue the yuan.
More significantly, he described China
as “a friend indeed, much more so than
some other so-called friends.''
Dr Mahathir wrote: `'If we can live with
the US as the sole superpower, there is no reason why we cannot live with China as a world power.
“China has practically no history of
conquering and colonising neighbours.
European powers have.''
Some see the latest China visit as
excellent timing to endear the
Barisan Nasional government to
the Chinese voters. Those who subscribe to such a theory believe
that the prime minister would
dissolve Parliament and call for
elections on returning to Kuala
Although Dr Mahathir continues to be a
target of attack among supporters of Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Chinese voters
generally are not as emotional as their
The trip will in some way help win
further Chinese support but it won't be
the sole factor to get the Chinese votes
as most Malaysian Chinese no longer have
links with China except as
The Government's effort in restoring the economy is likely to have a bigger impact. A bullish stock market would help as it provides the
The emphasis on political and economic
stability, particularly with reference
to the riots in Indonesia, would leave a deeper impression on the Chinese
While the urban Chinese have been supportive
of the DAP in past elections, the
community as a whole solidly backed the
Barisan Nasional in the 1995 election,
delivering over 60% of the votes.
In Penang, the DAP was almost wiped out
when 32 of 33 state assemblymen returned were from Barisan.
Indications so far show the Chinese business community backing Barisan. No one is quite sure how the middle class, including professionals,
would vote this time.
Generally, it can be assumed that the
community sees Dr Mahathir representing political and economic stability.
Many Chinese admit that the MCA has done
well in the fields of education and
culture. The unity it displays has made
the community stand proud.
Even the critical Chinese educationists movement has gone on record to acknowledge
the MCA's efforts.
The continual move by PAS to set up an
Islamic state, the bickerings in the DAP, the squabbles among the opposition over who should be prime minister in case of an opposition victory, and the dispute over
cross-overs to Parti Keadilan Nasional have not helped the opposition cause.
Should Jiang Zemin heap praises on Dr
Mahathir's leadership, it is unlikely
that the opposition would be able to
criticise the Chinese Government and the
Barisan without offending Chinese voters here.
It would not be able to respond in the
manner Dr Mahathir had blasted US Vice-President Al Gore for endorsing the reformasi movement.
But Malaysians must also see the visit
by Dr Mahathir beyond domestic concerns.
Both countries, for example, have agreed
to work together to reform the
international financial regulatory
system and establish a new financial
order to benefit all parties.
As part of a comprehensive programme on the development of bilateral ties,
Malaysia and China have agreed to
jointly work to promote the Singapore-Kunming rail project.
Malaysia will also open more consular
offices for visa issuance to tourists
from the republic.
The visit by Dr Mahathir will further
boost the Sino-Malaysian trade
relations, with bilateral trade standing
at US$4bil in 1997 in Malaysia's favour.
Despite the economic slowdown, the
countries managed to post a bilateral trade of US$2.91bil in the first nine months of last year.
Dr Mahathir's trip to Beijing on the eve
of the next millennium is most timely
and, given the tremendous interest it has generated, expectations are naturally