Malaysia is one of the beneficiaries of China's opening up, said Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV).
Mahathir visited China seven times when he served as Malaysian prime minister from 1981 to 2003 and made great contributions to the development of China-Malaysia ties. He took office again as Malaysian prime minister in May 2018. In August 2018, at the invitation of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, Mahathir paid his eighth visit to China.
The prime minister said since Malaysia became the first Asean country to establish formal diplomatic relations with China in 1974, the relations between the two countries have achieved great development.
China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner since 2009, and total trade volume reached a historical high of US$108.6 billion in 2018, according to China's statistics. As of 2018, China has also become Malaysia's largest source of foreign direct investment for three years in a row.
"We need to strengthen the relationship between China and Malaysia. Our relationship has always been very close. But we feel that we need to know each other better so that we can understand the related objectives, policies of China," said Mahathir.
China has unswervingly taken the path of peaceful development and promoted the construction of new international relations. However, there are still some countries and media that speculate on the so-called 'China threat' theory. Mahathir said that he was often asked if he was afraid of China and this is his answer.
"I have been asked everywhere I go, 'What do you think of China? Aren't you afraid of China?' There's nothing to be afraid of. We have had relations with China for almost 2,000 years. China never conquered us. But the Europeans came, two years after they came here, they conquered us. So we are more afraid of the Europeans than we are of China," he said.
In the past few decades, China has been steadfastly expanding the opening up. Mahathir said China's opening up has greatly benefited Malaysia, as well as other countries.
"China can play a very big role, not least because it is a very big country. They can play a role in growing the economy of the world by their own action. And certainly, for Malaysia, this has happened. When China decided to open up its market, Malaysia is one of the beneficiaries of that opening up. But I'm quite sure other nations also benefited, even Europe and America would benefit because China is a big market.
“At the same time the Chinese have been able to reduce the cost of production, which has helped many countries to reduce their cost of living. China has much that it can contribute towards the development of the world, including the developing countries," said Mahathir.
Mahathir has been paying close attention to the co-operation in high-tech industries between Malaysia and China. Last year during his visit to China, he visited the headquarters of e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, auto-manufacturer Geely Group and drone maker DJI, where he learned more about cutting-edge technologies of Chinese companies in the fields of inclusive finance, smart logistics and artificial intelligence.
"We recognize that China has made great strides in the new technologies, in digital technology. And indeed they have, in many cases, surpassed the other parts of the world. So we feel that China is a good model for us and we can learn a lot from China," he said.