Report cites mainland Chinese observers as saying that Beijing wants Malaysia not to incline towards the US as Singapore assumes Asean chairmanship next year.
PETALING JAYA: China is leveraging on its East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project to gain Malaysia’s support, in an effort to counterpoise its strained relations with the US and other countries in Southeast Asia, Chinese political commentators were quoted as saying today.
The South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that the 688 km line – planned to connect Gombak in Selangor to Kota Bharu in Kelantan with a travel time of less than four hours – has prompted speculation that it could alter current regional trade routes through the Straits of Malacca and the South China Sea via Singapore when it is completed in 2024.
“Since Singapore will be the chair of Asean next year, mainland Chinese observers said Beijing would be trying to ensure that Kuala Lumpur did not also pivot towards the US,” the report said.
It quoted Ni Lexiong, a naval expert at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, as saying that the recent cooperation between China and Malaysia signalled Beijing’s desire to reduce Singapore’s influence.
“At the moment, 70% of China’s oil and gas imports pass through the Straits of Malacca,” Ni said.
“Because of that, Singapore has been able to control China’s commercial and military access through the strait, and has used this as leverage in its balancing act between China and the US.”
The report also cited Xu Liping, a researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that Malaysia had in recent years become one of China’s closest partners in the region.
Read the full story at Free Malaysia Today