KUALA LUMPUR: President Hu Jintao flew from the early winter snow in Beijing to the tropical heat of Malaysia Tuesday afternoon to be embraced by even greater warmth from residents and officials in the capital.
The visit, the first by a Chinese head of state to Malaysia in 15 years, was “aimed at pushing the cooperative and strategic relations between the two nations to a new level”, Hu said upon arriving at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
“The deepening of strategic cooperation under new circumstances serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and peoples, and contributes to regional peace, prosperity and progress,” Hu said.
The president is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak and travel south to the historic Malacca before flying to Singapore on Wednesday.
Hu said China and Malaysia, both developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, share many interests.
During his meeting with President Hu Tuesday night, Malaysian Supreme Head of State Mizan Zainal Abidin said that it was important for Malaysia and China to upgrade their economic cooperation against the backdrop of global economic recession.
“There are huge potentials for the collaborations between the two countries, and I surely believe that the further development of bilateral relations will be conducive to peace and stability of the region, as well as to benefiting the two countries,” he said.
The two countries are expected to sign a series of economic and trade agreements on Wednesday to push forward projects in infrastructure, such as railway and bridge construction, sources close to the Chinese delegation said on Tuesday.
The event marks the 35th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic ties, established by the father of Prime Minister Najib, late prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, in 1974. At that time, Malaysia was the first among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to forge formal relations with China.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman hailed Hu’s trip as a boost to ties between Malaysia and China.
“The president’s visit signals that bilateral relations are getting stronger and marks another milestone in our bilateral relations,” he told a press briefing before Hu’s visit.
The Malaysia government rolled out a grand reception for Hu and his delegation.
In addition to a welcome ceremony attended by Malaysian diplomats, overseas Chinese and local residents at the airport, Hu was accorded a state welcome at Parliament Square, where he was greeted by Supreme Head of State Mizan Zainal Abidin and Prime Minister Najib. Mizan later accompanied Hu and his wife Liu Yongqing to the Shangri-La Hotel for a meeting.
China imported palm oil, integrated circuits and other products valued at $32 billion from Malaysia in 2008, a year-on-year rise of 11 percent, according to Chinese customs statistics.
The two-way trade between the two Asian countries hit $53.47 billion last year, two years ahead of a target of $50 billion set by Chinese and Malaysian leaders.
Between January and September, bilateral trade reached $26 billion, accounting for nearly 13 percent of Malaysia’s total trade during the period. This has made China Malaysia’s biggest trading partner this year, surpassing Singapore, the United States and Japan, according to local media reports.
Hu is expected to wrap up his visit to Malaysia this afternoon and continue his Southeast Asian tour in Singapore, where he will attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit this weekend.
Ties between China and Southeast Asia have gained in strength in recent years, Rodolfo C. Severino, chief of ASEAN Studies Centre at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore, told China Daily.
“The Malaysia and Singapore visits will certainly be a major step in strengthening China’s relations with those two countries and with ASEAN and Southeast Asia as a whole, a step that would merely be the latest of many measures that have drawn China and Southeast Asia closer together in recent times,” he said.