Kuala Lumpur / Beijing – The ambitious Chinese project of ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) is facing a new challenge in South-east Asia. The new Malaysian Prime Minister ‘Mahathir Mohamad’ has taken a decision to reconsider the ambitious projects that have been undertaken in the country through Chinese collaboration. Moreover, by visiting Japan on his maiden foreign visit, he has sent out a clear message that Japan can replace China. This seems to have jolted the Chinese efforts to dominate the countries in South-east Asia.
Mahathir Mohamad created a sensation by defeating the then Prime Minister Najib Razak in the elections conducted in Malaysia in the month of May. Mohamad’s win was a severe jolt for China who had a close relationship with Razak. During his tenure, Razak had signed up for many projects with Chinese collaboration, including participation in the ambitious OBOR. The other projects are Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail link, East Coast Rail Link, Malacca deep sea port and Industrial park.
The work on the East Coast Rail Link project worth USD 14 billion has already started and Chinese companies are being favoured for building the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail link. The development of Malacca and Industrial park has Chinese funding and are said to be a part of the OBOR project. Over the last decade, China has increased its direct investment in Malaysia and as of date, it is said to be about 15% of the total national investment.
However, soon after taking over as the Prime Minister, Mahathir Mohamad took a decision to put the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high speed rail link project on hold. He clarified that this decision was a part of the effort to reduce the national debt. The Prime Minister also said that the agreement for the East Coast Rail Link will too be renegotiated. Although no firm decisions have been taken about the other projects with Chinese collaboration, sources indicate that a possibility of some of them being dropped cannot be denied.
China has still not officially reacted on the decisions taken by the new Malaysian Prime Minister. But the mouthpiece media of the Chinese government have started threatening Malaysia and have warned that if the interests of the Chinese companies are threatened, compensation will be demanded from Malaysia. The Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir who has been thwarting the Chinese projects has indicated that China can be replaced by Japan and it is thus apparent that new equations will be formed in South-east Asia.