Launching Ceremony of "MCA Belt and Road 2.0"
Keynote Speech by Minister of Transport Malaysia cum MCA President
Dato’ Sri Liow Tiong Lai
9 February, 2018
Ladies and gentlemen,
1) First and foremost, I would like to thank everyone here for taking the time to attend the launching ceremony of the “MCA Belt and Road 2.0”.
2) Today, I can see many of my old friends, close comrades and entrepreneurs, and academicians from the various chambers of commerce and industries of both China and Malaysia present here to lend their support to us. On behalf of MCA, I welcome you and thank all of you for your support.
3) “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” is not only exclusive to MCA. It is an inclusive project, and shares a common vision and platform with everyone else. I believe that when our visions and actions are in tune with one another, we will be able to work together to promote further cooperation between our two nations under the Belt and Road Initiative, then both our peoples can share the fruits of our labour and allow both our countries to reach new heights.
4) I also wish to specially acknowledge the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Malaysia, His Excellency Bai Tian. Although he has only held this position for less than three months now, both he and I can see eye-to-eye on many matters. Both of us have the same concepts and direction, and it is as if we have both been friends and comrades for many years.
5) I remember when we first met, Ambassador Bai Tian had expressed to me his intention of boosting cooperation between SMEs from both China and Malaysia, and that this will be his top priority upon taking office. Now, I have no hesitation in expressing my fullest support towards Ambassador Bai Tian, and I promise that I will expand every effort in improving bilateral cooperation between both our governments and our peoples.
6) On 5 February, within a short time after taking office, Ambassador Bai Tian had contributed to the “Malaysia-China SMEs Business Matching Conference”. I was honoured to be invited to officiate the launch of that event and to witness the fulfilment of his promise.
7) When I first proposed the “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” action plan, Ambassador Bai Tian wholeheartedly agreed to it, and pledged to give his support without exception. Today, I would like to tell Your Excellency, that MCA has not let you down. The official launch of the “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” today is proof of my commitment to honour your support.
8) MCA is ready to work side-by-side with Ambassador Bai Tian to lead entrepreneurs and members of the public from both our nations to participate and support the Belt and Road Initiative in Malaysia so that all may benefit.
Ladies and gentlemen,
9) Today, I would like to share a story about my experience with the Belt and Road Initiative.
10) When I ran for the MCA presidency in 2013, I had proposed a transformation blueprint encompassing 9 strategies. Among them, I had proposed establishing inter-party diplomacy and expanding our international network, so as to lead the Malaysian Chinese community to establish itself in this country, and to look for new ways in the world to benefit our future generation.
11) In September and October of the same year, China’s President H.E. Xi Jinping had proposed the Belt and Road Initiative encompassing Central Asia and Southeast Asia, with Malaysia being designated as a major hub for the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
12) The Belt and Road Initiative thus presented me with new opportunities to strengthen ties between Malaysia and China, as well as bring new hope for our future generations.
13) At that time, I had realised that MCA must build stronger ties with China and to lead the Chinese community on this new path. Therefore, bringing in the Belt and Road Initiative into Malaysia had become one of the important strategies in fulfilling my election promises.
14) At the same time, I was also aware that MCA as part of the BN component, must have representatives in the Cabinet. We have to be part of the government to ensure that everyone can benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative at the national level. This was also part of my election promise during my presidential election.
15) On 25 June 2014, Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak restructured his Cabinet. I led the MCA Central Committee to take charge of several key Ministries and Departments, including the Ministry of Transport, the Prime Minister’s Department, the Ministry of Trade and Industry, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Education. In future, these positions will help lay a strong foundation for the Belt and Road Initiative.
16) On 18 July of the same year, I then led a delegation from MCA to visit the Communist Party of China. Both our parties had signed a Memorandum of Cooperation to strengthen bilateral ties in politics, economics, culture and education, as well as to jointly promote the Belt and Road Initiative between our countries, marking MCA’s new journey in the Belt and Road Initiative.
17) MCA is the first political party outside of China to respond and actively promote the Belt and Road Initiative. This is the first step in fulfilling my election promise of “establishing inter-party diplomacy and expanding our international network”. It was also the first step in leading the Chinese community to reach new horizons.
18) It can be said that MCA’s strategic cooperation with the CPC has allowed me to set clear goals and directions in fulfilling my promise to lead the Chinese on this journey.
Ladies and gentlemen,
19) Over the past four years serving as MCA President and Minister of Transport, Malaysia, I have not only witnessed a historical high level of cooperation in Malaysia-China relations, but also led in Malaysia-China co-operation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
20) Over the past four years, I held firm to my beliefs, and have led the Malaysian Chinese community to establish itself in Malaysia, as well as globally. Whether at the national or party level, MCA is always at the forefront of consolidating ties between Malaysia and China over the Belt and Road Initiative, and played a pioneering role in it.
21) In November 2015, the Premier of China H.E. Li Keqiang visited Malaysia. As the Minister-in-attendance, I was accorded the honour of accompanying him on a tour around the country to introduce our best to China.
22) At the same time, witnessed by both Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib and Premier Li Keqiang, the Ministry of Transport Malaysia under my leadership had signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with the Ministry of Transport China to officially establish a “China-Malaysia Port Alliance.”
23) Today, this Port Alliance covers 21 ports in both Malaysia and China, and serves as an important shipping network under the “Maritime Silk Road”. This Port Alliance not only increases the efficiency and competitiveness of our ports, but also facilitates trade, investment and logistics between countries under the Belt and Road Initiative.
24) As of 2016, Malaysia’s total trade with other nations under the Belt and Road Initiative amounted to USD$850 billion. The improvement of other transportation facilities such as ports, airports and railways will further enhance trade between Malaysia and other countries along the Belt and Road Initiative.
25) We not only benefit in terms of traditional trade such as electrical and electronic parts, palm oil and other commodities, but also in terms of creating more business opportunities in non-traditional trading fields such as logistics, tourism, cross border e-commerce and education. All of these have provided us with a golden opportunity to expand our market abroad.
26) In November 2016, when accompanying Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib, I had visited China and witnessed the signing of 14 Memorandums of Cooperation between Malaysian and Chinese companies worth RM144 billion. Three of these were green field investments which have directly generated a higher economic output for our country; created more business opportunities for SMEs; and produced more job opportunities for the people.
27) In addition to that, four of those Memorandums signed were related to the bird’s nest industry and cross border e-commerce, which had opened up a bigger market for Malaysia’s bird’s nest farmers and e-traders.
28) During that same trip, we had also met with Jack Ma, founder of the Alibaba Group, to set up our own Digital Free Trade Zone and to make Malaysia an important player in e-World Trade Platform (eWTP).
29) In May 2017, in my capacity as Transport Minister, I had accompanied Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib to attend the “Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation”.
30) Not only did I witness the signing of a Memorandum of Cooperation worth RM31.3 billion between Malaysia and China, but I had also personally signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation of Transportation Infrastructure between Malaysia and China’s Ministry of Commerce to jointly develop railways, ports, airports and other infrastructure projects.
31) My comrades, MCA Secretary-General Dato’ Seri Ong Ka Chuan, who is also the Minister of International Trade and Industry II, had on behalf of Malaysia, signed a Memorandum of Understanding with China on “Promoting Joint Economic Development under the Belt and Road Initiative” which saw the inclusion of the development of Belt and Road Initiative into our national agenda.
32) China has also promised to purchase USD$2 trillion worth of goods from countries which are part of the Belt and Road Initiative, especially those that are signatories to it, as well as to invest USD$150 billion worth of construction projects over the next five years. As signatories to this MoU, our entrepreneurs are expected to benefit from this.
33) In late January this year, as Malaysia’s Transport Minister, I represented our country in attending the Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Civil Aviation which was held in Beijing with the aim of enhancing safety in civil aviation.
34) At the Conference, I had also met with H.E. Li Xiaopeng, China’s Transport Minister, to discuss and conduct an in-depth exchange between China and Malaysia in terms of facilities and cooperation, which included strengthening the China-Malaysia Port Alliance, increasing flights to Wuhan, Fuzhou and Nanjing, the construction of the East Coast Railway Link, the development of Melaka Gateway Port, as well as other projects.
35) At the same time, I was also invited to meet with Liu He, a member of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee. During this meeting, we had deliberated on the cooperation between Malaysia and China on certain issues. For my part, I had sought to increase the exports of bird’s nests and durians to China, whilst China will increase its volume of cargo in Kuantan Port and accelerate the construction of Melaka Gateway Port.
Ladies and gentlemen,
36) The strategic cooperation between MCA and the CPC is not solely about MCA. Since our independence, MCA and the Chinese community have been dependent on each other. This was the case in the past, and in the future it should be even more so.
37) Since taking office as MCA President, I have been actively building bridges between both countries via the Belt and Road Initiative. Our biggest driving force is to lead the Chinese business community, and future generations, to embark on this new path.
38) In 2015, I led 160 local entrepreneurs to China to attend the “Malaysia-China Business Dialogue” in Beijing jointly organised by MCA and the CPC, which saw a number of business matchings between Malaysia and China.
39) In 2016, MCA had cooperated with the International Liaison Department of the CPC to hold the “Belt and Road Initiative: Malaysia-China Business Dialogue”. The Department’s Assistant Minister H.E. Li Jun had led a delegation of 62 Chinese businessmen to Kuala Lumpur to attend the dialogue which saw many Memorandums of Cooperation signed with the 120 Malaysian businessmen led by MCA. This includes agreements on bird’s nests, e-commerce, agriculture and tourism.
40) In May 2017, I had led an MCA delegation to visit the CPC Central Committee where we held an in-depth discussion with Chinese Minister H.E. Song Tao on education, urbanisation of new villages, think tank research and cultural cooperation, all of which have achieved satisfactory results.
41) In late January this year, I had led a delegation to China to meet my old friend H.E. Song Tao again.
42) During the dinner we had, H.E. Song Tao not only affirmed Malaysia’s efforts in promoting the Belt and Road Initiative, but also praised the role played by MCA in leading Malaysia to become one of the first countries to benefit from it, and therefore receive the biggest gains.
43) MCA and the International Liaison Department of the CPC have also shared our views and achieved many tangible results in politics, economy, culture and education under the Belt and Road Initiative between both our parties and countries.
44) Overall, under MCA’s active leadership, the cooperation between Malaysia and China under the Belt and Road Initiative has upgraded from its original purpose into an important agenda and action plan for the development of our country.
Ladies and gentlemen,
45) MCA has created many firsts in Malaysia-China co-operation under the Belt and Road Initiative.
46) We were the first political party from abroad to respond to the Belt and Road Initiative, and the first to actively lead our country’s participation in the Initiative. We are also the first to set up a Belt and Road Initiative centre.
47) We were also the first country to launch the “Malaysian Chinese Belt and Road Declaration”, and the first country to set up the “MCA Belt and Road Business Consultation Mobile Centre”.
48) The MCA Belt and Road Centre (MBRACE) was established on 12 December 2016, and serves as MCA’s platform to introduce the Belt and Road Initiative to the Chinese community, SMEs, and the public in general.
49) I would also like to take the opportunity to thank the Chinese Embassy in Malaysia for their support in the setting up of MBRACE last year.
50) At the same time, I also want to thank the various Chinese guilds and associations for their support. Your willingness to stand with us and to sign the “Malaysian Chinese Belt and Road Declaration” is an important pillar for MCA to move forward and to lead the Chinese community on this new journey.
51) I also want to thank the entrepreneurs and those who have taken this journey with us and have actively supported MCA and MBRACE. Because of your support, MCA can travel further down this road.
52) Looking back throughput the past year, MBRACE has hosted over 100 seminars on the Belt and Road Initiative so as to share the opportunities and challenges to more than 15,000 entrepreneurs and members of the public.
53) Since its launching last May, MBRACE has visited many second- and third-tier cities nationwide, providing consultation on business transformation and advisory services to hundreds of small and medium-sized enterprises.
54) Today, we have led more than 500 SMEs to China to participate in exhibitions and have successfully matched many Malaysian companies with companies from China. We have also hosted over 100 delegations from China’s central, provincial and municipal governments and business delegations so as to deepen ties and to help local entrepreneurs “go global”.
55) MBRACE and Hunan Broadcasting System, China’s highest rated television station, had also collaborated for the first time to organise the “Malaysia International Durian Cultural Tourism Festival 2017” to create an international durian brand in Malaysia. This Festival had attracted over 50,000 people and tourists, consuming 10 tonnes of durians within 2 days.
Ladies and gentlemen,
56) Economic and trade ties between China and Malaysia are now at a historical peak. Today, China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner, our largest source of imports, and our second largest exports market.
57) Bilateral trade between Malaysia and China amounted to RM264.62 billion in the first 11 months of 2017, which accounts for 16.3% of Malaysia’s total trade and surpassed the RM249.91 billion worth of bilateral trade for the whole of 2016.
58) On average, China imports more than RM10 billion worth of goods from Malaysia monthly, highlighting the huge potential of Malaysia’s products and services in China’s market.
59) Ever since the Belt and Road Initiative was proposed, bilateral trade between Malaysia and China has reached RM1,447.5 billion from 2013 to November 2017, which is an increase of 52.4%, from RM751.1 billion five years ago before its proposal.
60) The continuous cooperation between our countries under the Belt and Road Initiative have allowed us to see its results, and its gradual integration into our economic sector has yielded positive benefits to our country, economy, and industry, and to the people.
61) Work on the East Coast Rail Link has begun. Rail networks linking Greater KL with our three east coast states will create spill-over development in its neighbouring areas. Economic growth in these three states is expected to grow by an additional 1.5% and will create more than 80,000 job opportunities.
62) The new deep-water terminal for Kuantan Port is expected to be completed by the end of this year. By then, Kuantan Port will emerge to become a transit point for international goods. In future, it will also be connected to the East Coast Rail Link to encourage logistical trade and investment.
63) Upon the completion of the Melaka Gateway project, Melaka will become a new international tourist attraction and its status as a port city will create business opportunities for the local economy and surrounding industries.
64) In addition, our government’s partnership with Alibaba Group will see over 1,900 SMEs stationed in our Digital Free Trade Zone. By 2025, the DFTZ is estimated to bring in USD$ 65 billion worth of logistics, thus transforming Malaysia into a regional logistical hub.
Ladies and gentlemen,
65) In terms of manufacturing, China is our largest source of FDI in the manufacturing industry. In 2016, China participated in 33 manufacturing projects, with a total investment value of RM4.8 billion.
66) Malaysia is also one of the largest beneficiaries of China’s green field investments. From 2003 to 2015, China’s green field investments in Malaysia was valued at USD$11.8 billion.
67) Malaysia has also become the third largest solar cell producer in the world with three companies from China investing in solar cell manufacturing facilities in Penang and Sarawak.
68) Besides these, two major glass production companies from China, Xinyi Glass Holdings and QIBIN Glass Group, have set up factories in Malaysia, turning us from a net importers of glass to become a net exporter of glass.
69) In terms of agriculture, I have been actively promoting our durians to China. Now, our “Musang King” has sparked a durian craze in China. In 2017, we held our first durian festival in Nanning, China. In three days, it attracted 165,000 visitors and netted business deals worth RM2.9 billion.
70) Through the efforts of MCA Cabinet Ministers and the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry, our pineapples are now allowed to enter China’s market. The day when whole durians will be exported into the Chinese market is also near. In future, we will introduce more “Made in Malaysia” fruits and agricultural products to China’s huge consumer market.
71) In tourism, Malaysia is the second most popular tourist destination under the Belt and Road Initiative, after Thailand. The number of tourists from China to Malaysia has exceeded 2 million, compared to only 100,000 in the 1990s.
72) In the past two years, Malaysia and China have been establishing new trade routes with major cities in Malaysia, including Melaka, Penang and Johor, creating tremendous business opportunities for our tourism industry and other related fields. We are confident that by 2020 we will reach the goal of having 8 million Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia.
73) China’s Alipay has also officially signed an agreement with Malaysia, therefore providing greater convenience for tourists from China to make purchases in Malaysia. This will help stimulate the development of our local tourism and its related industries.
74) On cooperation in the education sector, through the urgings of MCA Ministers, Xiamen University has opened its first campus in Malaysia. This is the first time that a prestigious university from China had set up a campus overseas. Since 2016, more than 2,600 students have enrolled in it, including 1,000 from China.
75) In 2016, the number of students of China studying in Malaysia reached 11,445 whereas the number of Malaysian students in China reached 6,880. Due to the continuous development of cooperation between both universities, this figure is expected to rise.
Ladies and gentlemen,
76) The rapid development of relations between Malaysia and China over the past decade is not only reflected in the substantial growth of our bilateral trade and investments, but also in the frequent exchanges and cooperation amongst our peoples, in culture and education.
77) It should also be said that the good ties between China and Malaysia cannot be bought with “money”, nor can it be created with “money”.
78) This is because our Chinese community here have close blood ties with China; because we Chinese entrepreneurs have sought to establish long-term trade and investment ties with China; because our ancestors have retained the Chinese culture and education, therefore enriching bilateral relations and interaction between Malaysia and China, laying the foundation of a “good neighbour, good partner” relationship.
79) However, it is heart wrenching to note that the harmonious relationship between Malaysia and China has become a target for political opportunists. Members of the Opposition have constantly criticised and attempted to sabotage by stirring up ultra-nationalists feelings in order to satisfy their own political interests.
80) Baseless accusations against MCA and the CPC of conducting “a Chinese takeover”, “colonising Malaysia”, “pawning of state lands”, as well as lies that “Malaysians are not allowed into the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park” are attempts to create an atmosphere of fear.
81) Today, all our distinguished guests have gathered here to prove a point. Everyone here agrees that Sino-Malaysian relations are based on the principles of equality and mutual trust, a peaceful coexistence and achieving a win-win situation. The results of our cooperation can clearly be seen.
82) Trade relations between Malaysia and China are two-ways; bilateral investments between Malaysia and China is mutually beneficial; business cooperation between entrepreneurs of Malaysia and China have created a win-win situation; cultural and education exchanges are interactive; visits between the peoples of Malaysia and China are carried out naturally.
83) Today, learning Mandarin, studying in Chinese schools, and learning Chinese culture are no longer limited only to the Chinese community. Many of our fellow countrymen have started to adopt cross-cultural exchange. Likewise, the Chinese community is also striving to learn more about the cultures, languages and lifestyles of our fellow friends in an effort to integrate with our diverse society.
84) No one can coerce another in Malaysia’s relationship with China. “Money” cannot buy our feelings towards China. Neither can money buy over China’s trust towards us. It is only by careful cooperation with each other, and by ensuring a peaceful coexistence, that we can achieve a win-win situation.
Ladies and gentlemen,
85) After four years or hard work, MCA has established a solid foundation for Malaysia-China ties under the Belt and Road Initiative. I believe that many of us have a certain degree of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative. But how can we participate in it, and how do we benefit from it? That is the question in many people’s hearts.
86) I feel that it is the right time to launch the “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” with emphasis on the private sector, and a clear cut plan to lead the Chinese community, businesses and members of the public to participate in our nation’s development through the Belt and Road Initiative.
87) The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2050, countries which are part of the Belt and Road Initiative are expected to contribute to 80% of the global economic growth and create 3 billion new middle class citizens.
88) As I have mentioned before, China has promised to purchase USD$ 2 trillion worth of products from nations which are signatories of the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as invest USD$150 billion worth of construction projects. Malaysia as one of the signatories deserves to get a share of this economic pie.
89) In addition, in line with the era of globalisation and digital economy, traditional SMEs must now compete in a more open and free market environment. The rapid progress of digital technology is a challenge which threatens the survival and competitiveness of traditional SMEs. Some industries and jobs will disappear, but new industries and jobs will be created. For us, this is both an opportunity and a challenge we must face.
90) For our SMEs to survive, our labour force must be able to adapt and make changes, or face being eliminated.
91) The Belt and Road Initiative is like a giant free trade zone that opens up new roads for our SMEs and the public. However, are we ready to fulfil the trend of the Belt and Road Initiative?
92) MCA as a ruling party is also a pillar for the Chinese community. Therefore, we must shoulder the responsibility of leading the Chinese community and businesses on this new road. This is our duty. This is my mission to the party, the Chinese and to the country.
93) As such, I had decided to launch the MCA Belt and Road 2.0, and to set a clear five-point action plan to lead Malaysian businesses and Malaysians to directly benefit from the Belt and Road Initiative.
94) The five strategies are: (a) Business Transformation and Young Start-ups; (b) SME Go-Global; (c) Trade and Investment Promotion Platform; (d) B&R Policy Coordination Platform; and (e) Education and Training.
95) MCA is responsible for various government Ministries, and many government resources have not been fully utilised yet. I hope that by combining government resources and the people, we can help our SMEs more effectively.
96) For example, under the “Business Transformation and Young Start-ups” strategy, the Secretariat for the Advancement of Malaysian Entrepreneurs (SAME) under the Prime Minister’s Department can provide financial channels and advisory services for young entrepreneurs.
97) We have also collaborated with the Malaysian E-commerce Association to initiate the “SME E-Commerce Transformation Initiative” to help traditional SMEs establish an online platform to sell their products online, thus opening themselves up to a larger market.
98) In addition, we also assist SMEs to participate in exhibitions, and to match them with companies in China so as to expand their market base via MATRADE, the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, as well as help them seek the support and subsidies provided by the Chinese government. MIDA, another investment project in Malaysia, will also provide investments and manufacturing-related development and tax incentives.
99) Our official partner in China, the China-ASEAN SME Trade Promotion Platform, will also provide assistance for our local entrepreneurs to penetrate the Chinese market by approving our local specialised products through the Qinzhou Port in the Guangxi Province.
100) We will also, in cooperation with the government of China, organise a series of Belt and Road Tourism Lectures in order to assist Chinese tourists by introducing Malaysia’s unique tourist destinations, cuisine, accommodations and souvenirs to them.
101) In terms of education and training, we will work with universities and colleges in China to provide our children with opportunities and scholarships to further their studies in China. We will also provide them with opportunities to receive skills training and education and provide them with internships with Chinese companies so that they can learn their trade.
Ladies and gentlemen,
102) As time is a limiting factor, I will not go into detail about the five major strategies. In future, we will release the latest projects and developments on “MCABR 2.0”. Ladies and gentlemen, you can learn more by visiting the Five Strategic Action Plan section of “MCABR 2.0” for more details.
103) What I want to stress on is that as a pioneer of the Belt and Road Initiative in Malaysia, MCA upholds the principle of a “people-oriented, people first”. “MCABR 2.0” belongs to everyone. In order for us to lead the Chinese community on this new path, we need the concerted effort and solid support from everyone.
104) The launching ceremony of “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” today is just the beginning. I strongly hope that the Chinese community, SMEs and the public will be able to actively participate in the five strategies and benefit from it.
105) We also welcome entrepreneurs and individuals who want to join “MCA Belt and Road 2.0” to work together with us in promoting this effort. Your full support is the biggest driving force in forging cooperation between Malaysia and China under the Belt and Road Initiative.
106) Finally, I would like to extend my warmest regards to all of you, and I wish everyone a Happy Chinese New Year in advance, and wish everyone well.
Dato' Sri Liow Tiong Lai