The answer to this question is glaring, and it was the obvious choice that the Chinese had in their push in the Asean region where it has made more enemies among the member states over the South China Sea issue.
While a Bloomberg report on Friday said that “China views Singapore as being less supportive of Xi’s plan,”, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak played his cards well to woo Beijing into its own plans at home.
Playing the domestic cards by opening its borders to China’s investment and development projects – many of which have shown traces of fatigue in the long run – Najib brought the Chinese government to understand that he needed them for his own political survival.
Now that it is a given the Bandar Malaysia-China company deal was a show, it is obvious the Najib went to China to get more ‘deals’ on paper to show that he is the man of the moment.
But like the Bandar Malaysia and the Forest City deals – which collapsed – should we expect more such deals to collapse in the months ahead of us?
And can the Chinese government trust Najib in his promises he made to them, or should Najib be the one wary of what the Chinese can do since they are the ones who are definitely behind the collapse of both the Forest city and the Bandar Malaysia project.
That is if we are to believe reports from the Wall Street Journal that said the Chinese government pulled the plug on Bandar Malaysia since it is not interested in investing in projects dealing with construction and property development.
It is mostly interested in the Bandar Malaysia project if it gets the nod from Najib for the High-Speed Rail project signed between Malaysia and Singapore.
In the current state of affairs, both Malaysia and China are playing a tug-of-war game in which China allows itself to be pulled in the Malaysian domestic game plan, but not promising to finish the game as it pulls Malaysia towards its One Belt One Road (OBOR) project.
Last week, Malaysia said it signed dozens of deals with China and Chinese companies during Najib’s visit last year to China, and it is now saying it has signed billion dollar deals, yet again.
With China inviting the rest of the world to ‘invest’ its One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative – which it is jealously defending as its own idea to beef up global trade linkages – something is not right.
Does China has the money to pump in all these multi-billion dollar projects it is announcing?
First, we have Chinese president Xi Jinping who promised that China will bring along with him $100 billion of investment commitments over five years to India.
This is not the only billion dollar promises made by Beijing over the years and the Indian promises were made in 2014.
Days later, the Chinese dashed the hopes on the $100 billion investments, bringing it down to $20 billion only.
Then there was the Country Garden Holdings Co.’s huge property showroom in southern Malaysia where the Chinese developer planned to build a $100 billion city in the sea.
That was the Forest City development in Johor, which went bust recently.
The developer is now saying it is hoping to rope in Arab property buyers to replace the Chinese property buyers and explained that this was due to policy changes in China.
The developer said it could not get the Chinese buyers at Forest City to transfer the balance of their funds to Malaysia, due to stringent currency control imposed by China.
While that does not necessarily hold water, we still have the huge Chinese promises in other countries.
In 2015, China announced it will be the largest shareholder in the $100 billion Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank or AIIB.
It also said it will invest billions in the Asean region and billions in the USA, as well as a $24 billion to be invested in North Korea.
And in December last year, South China Morning Post said China’s signature US$5.1 billion Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail project has been shelved for now.
The rail project is facing a rise in cost, between US$5.5 billion to $5.9 billion, with shifting designs of the project threatening to swell costs from the intial estimate of US$5.5 billion to $5.9 billion.
But Chinese infrastructure developers were still taking a dominant position in Indonesia’s ambitious 35,000MW electricity expansion.
The paper said that was surprising, given the disastrous 10,000-megawatt (MW) “crash” power programme, which finished years behind schedule and left state-run power supplier PLN with serious maintenance and performance issues.
Now, as the Malaysian leader is back from China where he took part in the Belt and Road Initiative meeting, he will have brisk time handling the 1MDB-Bandar Malaysia situation, while he decides whether to call for snap polls and to defend his party to the extent of blood spilling.
Najib, in his speech at the UMNO’s 71st anniversary, said without any hesitation that he and his supporters would defend the UMNO at all cost “even with spilling the blood.”
There are talks that the Wanda Group would take over the lead in the Bandar Malaysia project but without owning shares, unlike the IWH-CREC consortium which signed up for 60% ownership of the project.
Yet, such deals would only be ‘on paper’ and whether they materialise or not after the expected general elections in Malaysia will be another story.
This is the extent of the Malaysia-China deal, and Najib would want the Chinese promises, the lavish signing ceremonies and the talks of Chinese investment rising in Malaysia as part of the Barisan Nasional plans to woo voters.
Then there is the Saudi Arabian link with Najib, which the latter would also want to keep afloat while he decides on the polls.
In the end, it is all about saving Najib and whether it works or not, will depend on how the people vote in Malaysia.
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