Malaysia China relations: When shared interests dominate the narrative

The sale of Malaysia's national car, the Proton, to China has raised many objections from the nationalists in the country, especially Mahathir who gave birth to the idea. There must be good reasons for Najib to want to part with this national project that is all about pride and progress of the bumiputra policy. It is easy to criticise Najib for selling a national asset, though not strategic in any sense, on emotional grounds overriding economic and financial considerations. If the Proton is such an attractive proposition, not losing money but gaining popularity as a national car, with new technology and engines to propel it into an international product, Najib would not have done what he did.


The logic behind the sale of Proton to China is very similar to the sale of Lotus by Britain to Malaysia or Sweden selling its Volvo to China. In the case of Lotus and Volvo, there are technologies involved that the Chinese are interested. There is nothing of this when the Proton is concerned, an antique dressed up with bright colours to be sold only to the locals as a cheap product but losing its glitters as the days gone by. Najib either sells it now when there is a buyer or would have to end up folding the company when no one else is interested in this shell of a car manufacturing company. There is nothing worthy or worthwhile for anyone to want to buy the Proton unlike Lotus or the Volvo. Period. China is actually doing Malaysia a big favour by pouring money into a dead end product and giving it a future with the injection of modern technology and engines to give it a new life. Would the critics be able to see it in this light?


There are times when interests collide and times when common interests compliment and would bring about more cooperation to benefit both parties. China has a great strategic interest to want to invest in Malaysia for strategic and economic reasons. The greatest fear of China is the choke point in the water ways through the Malacca Strait and the Strait of Singapore. 80% of China's oil flow through these narrow channels of water and with the Americans posing a greater threat in its increasing belligerent rhetoric against China. The latter has to do something to avoid a blockage of the Straits by the Americans.


China is looking at the geography of the region and found several alternatives to break away from the choke points. China is making big plans to find alternative routes for its oil supply from the Middle East bypassing the Straits of Singapore and Malacca in Gwadar, Pakistan, oil pipeline in Myanmar, a possible cutting of the Kra of Isthmus and cutting across from peninsula Malaysia. The strategic plan would involved several options and Malaysia is just one of them.


Why would Malaysia want to be part of this Chinese strategic plan? What benefits would Malaysia derive from it? For centuries, Malaysia has been bypassed by the strategic location and infrastructure of Singapore as a regional transportation hub. In the Chinese plan, involving great engineering, infrastructure development and financing, Malaysia would become the next transportation hub of the region to rival Singapore. China stood to gain strategically with its development in Malaysia. And Malaysia stood to gain economically enormously in replacing Singapore as the new transportation and financial centre. When both countries have so much to gain, there are all the reasons for Malaysia to rethink its strategic interests to participate fully in a plan that would make Malaysia a vibrant hub of economic activities. Or would Malaysia choose to let this piece of pie go and seek closer ties with the Americans that are meddling in its internal affairs and could only offer to sell more arms and weapons that are totally unproductive and a waste of money?


Malaysia can also decide against being aligned and enmeshed intricately with China as some critics would caution. Malaysia has a choice, and so has the Chinese. If Malaysia does not want to come on board, China would accelerate its plan to cut the Kra Isthmus in quick time and by pass Malaysia totally. China has to do one or the other. Malaysia could choose one or the other. When China chooses to go the Kra way, all the benefits that Malaysia could gain would go up in smokes and Malaysia would remain on the side line of the world's major water way and transportation network.


The Chinese proposition makes a lot of economic sense to Malaysia. The Chinese would find a way out from the potential American blockage, and Malaysia would become the new shining centre of global trade. Najib and his govt must have gone through the whole thinking process to want in and the instant reward is the sale of a karung guni car that no one would pay a cent for to China, and at a good price and with potential of the Proton name gaining more traction with new technology and engines to compete in the international market. To Malaysia, there are so many avenues and opportunities to benefit from this strategic alignment with China's economic and strategic plan with no compromise to its national interests.


Now what would the critics say or could offer other than emotional gripes? Would the Americans buy the Proton for a song? Would the Americans turn Malaysia into a new transportation hub and a new financial centre, or into another war zone?


Anonymous said...

Malaysia is playing the cards right. Singapore is alienating herself from China and now totally under the control of USA. This will be a future disadvantage. Great disadvantage.

Anonymous said...

Sales of Proton is only a sweetener. As RB has said, Proton is rather worthless with no technological breakthrough all these years. Proton is viewed as poor man's car and it will remain for years to come. China knows that but it does not mind because the final objective is not about Proton but the ability to capture Malaysia and turn the country to its advantage.

One Stone Kills Three Birds said...

Owing to Najib's alignment with China, Japan is not happy.

Indirectly, the Japanese has cut off all supports to Najib for the Mahathir"s Potong-Salah Project!

Internally, Mahathir has shown total disrespect to Najib as the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

China's help in Najib's 1MDB's predicament financially could have been a package deal involing the sale of Proton Saga in return.

By selling the Proton to China, Najib kills three birds with one stone.

Firstly, it is an indirect message to Malaysians, and a direct slab on Mahathir's face, that the Era of Mahathir's Political Supremacy has come to its ultimate end.

Secondly, it is a message to Japan that Japanese technological and financial supports to Malaysia can be replaced with even better and greater help from China.

3. Econmically and financially, Malaysia stands to benefit from this sale. At the same time, Najib is getting rid of this down-hill fading , money-losing project, the baggage of the Mahathir Era.

Anonymous said...

From the start Japan has no intention to transfer any new technology to Malaysia. The engine used by Proton was an old Mitsubishi Lancer engine. Now Mitsubishi Lancer engine had gone through at least 20 years of upgrade, could be 3rd or 5th generation engine. If I am not mistaken Proton is still using the old engine or has got a new old Korean engine.

Anonymous said...

Malaysia Boleh!

Anonymous said...

Yes! Malaysia is fast becoming the new economic hub of SEA!

Just look at the vaious MEGA developments all over Malaysia.

Will Malaysia overtakes Singapore?

When SG50........S$1 = RM3

Come SG100.......will it be........S$3 = RM1?

Will it be a case of........风水轮流转?

Please remember人算不如天算! And that人是斗不过天的!



Anonymous said...

@ June 14, 2017 9:29 am

The latest Proton engine is the 3rd Generation Engine, called CamPro Engine. It is an adoption and modification of the Lotus Engine.

Anonymous said...


Big trouble unfolding!

Anonymous said...

Annon 9:42. Here in Singapore, we have trouble unfolding in the LEE family too. LSY is leaving the country and blaming it to his brother (Yahoo News 14 June)

patriot said...

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Why should they remain in Sin to face the Wrath
of the Native Sinkies when things become too challenging and dangerous..

l will not be the least surprised that many Second and Third Generations are already living abroad.


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b said...

Marxists like to work with Islamists because they share the same religion - extreme capitalism. It is no surprise that they want malaysia not sg. Natural resources are too important to them. But it is also part of karma for treating us so badly.

b said...

Btw, it is not working. It is an invasion. In ten years time, malaysia will be chinese owned. Just like europe will be islam owned.

Anonymous said...

Don't think Msia would be so stupid lah, to let so many foreigners into their country indiscriminately, lost control, macam gila. It is traitorous.

Only khongcum in Spore would do such silly thing.