KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim said on Friday (Mar 31) that the Southeast Asian nation will not allow any big power to dictate its decisions and future direction.
“Nobody should dictate us. As a free and independent nation, we will decide what is best for us,” Mr Anwar was quoted as saying by Bernama on the third day of his official visit to China.
“And we decide based on core values and principles, which are to make sure that we have good governance and policies that will benefit the country and the people.”
He added: “We should also maintain this position in ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) because ASEAN was set up as a free and neutral zone.”
Mr Anwar was responding to a question on the rivalry between China and the United States during a public lecture at the renowned Tsinghua University in Beijing, following his attendance at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) in Hainan.
Inaugurated in 2001, BFA aims to promote common development through regional economic integration.
On Malaysia’s relationship with China, Mr Anwar reportedly said that Malaysia does not see China as a competitor nor a threat, even if some disagreements exist between the two countries.
“Since there is no outright threat from China, we are happy to be a good neighbour, a friend and to benefit from their success,” he said.
He added that Malaysia wants to build excellent relationships with all countries, including China and the US.
Malaysia - along with several ASEAN member states like Brunei, the Philippines and Vietnam - is a claimant state in the South China Sea together with China. Other countries like the US and its allies have also challenged China’s territorial claims.
China and the US, said Mr Anwar, must also understand that the dynamic of international diplomacy today has changed and that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict is affecting the whole world.
“The period of colonisation and new imperialism is gone. No country can dictate (another). People want to assert their independence and decide what is best for themselves and their country,” he said, according to Bernama.
Mr Anwar is scheduled to meet China’s President Xi Jinping on Friday afternoon.
On Thursday, during his speech at the BFA, Mr Anwar said that solidarity and cooperation are key for Asia to be more resilient and emerge stronger after COVID-19.
"Translating lofty ideals into practical reality, solidarity and cooperation is best exemplified in the realisation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
"With the pandemic behind us, we should try to regain its momentum," he was quoted as saying by The Star.
In 2013, Mr Xi launched BRI with the goal of establishing commercial and infrastructure links between Asia, Europe and Africa. In 2021, Malaysian media reported then prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob as saying that Malaysia will continue to support the initiative.
This is Mr Anwar’s first visit to China as Malaysia’s prime minister. His participation in the BFA coincides with the 10th anniversary of the elevation of the Malaysia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership since 2013 which seeks to strengthen bilateral ties between the two nations.