AS Malaysia celebrates its 60th Malaysia Day, a pertinent question looms: How does Malaysia balance its economic aspirations with the sovereignty we cherish?

This question takes on a new sense of urgency as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim announces a deepening of Malaysia-China ties, particularly concerning China's support for Malaysia's New Industrial Master Plan (NIMP) 2030.

Anwar's NIMP and Huawei's controversial inclusion

In a recent bilateral meeting with Chinese Premier Li Qiang, Prime Minister Anwar declared China's support for Malaysia's NIMP 2030.

This ambitious plan aims to transform Malaysia into a high-tech nation by 2030 with a projected total investment of RM95 billion.

Anwar also emphasized the role of companies like Huawei in upskilling efforts, despite the cloud of controversies surrounding the tech giant.

Huawei: A thorny issue

The Prime Minister's mention of Huawei as a potential key investor into Malaysia raises several red flags.

Huawei's alleged ties to the Chinese government, particularly concerning potential espionage, have led to the company being banned or severely restricted in several countries, including the United States and Australia.

By explicitly associating with Huawei, Anwar opens the door for controversies that could compromise Malaysia's national security and diplomatic relationships.

We do not need; nor want, another Forest City-like catastrophic investment failure again.

Forest City: The complexity of Chinese investments

Forest City, part of China's colossal Belt and Road Initiative, has an estimated investment size of RM400 billion.

While the project seemingly promises prosperity, it sidelines average Malaysians from the economic windfall. Its emphasis on wealthy foreign investors — 70% of whom are from China — essentially bypasses local Malaysian communities, raising further questions on the equitable distribution of benefits from such mega-projects.

Beyond economic aspects: Espionage, territorial integrity, and human rights

While economic issues like Forest City and NIMP 2030 are pressing, they're only part of the equation. Concerns about Huawei's espionage capabilities, China's aggressiveness in the South China Sea, and the inhumane treatment of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang add layers of complexity to Malaysia-China relations.

The legal minefield: MOUs and sovereignty

During his visit, Anwar announced the signing of three MOUs worth RM19.84 billion with Chinese companies.

While these agreements may seem promising, they need to be scrutinized thoroughly. The legal intricacies, often embedded in terms like "concession agreements," can be sovereignty-compromising, as evidenced by the 99-year lease of Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port to China.

Conclusion: A call for cautious optimism

As Malaysia commemorates its 60th Malaysia Day, the promise and peril of closer ties with China, as signalled by Anwar’s recent visit, warrant a deep and nuanced national conversation.

While economic growth is essential, it should not come at the expense of our sovereignty, national security, or ethical commitments.

Anwar's ongoing negotiations and declarations indicate a positive trajectory for Malaysia-China relations.

Still, it is vital for these ties to be carefully managed, transparent, and ultimately aligned with Malaysia's long-term interests and values.

Note: This article does not represent the views of any specific organization. It aims to provoke thought and discussion about the implications of Malaysia's relationship with China, particularly in light of the new commitments announced by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim.

* Ahmad Zaim Ahmad Tawfek used to assist a few Ministers in shaping the right and progressive economic, youth and foreign policies for Malaysia.

** The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of Astro AWANI.