Not many people know that it was a letter which started the ball rolling 35 years ago for the establishment of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations, TheEdgeMalaysia reported on its website.
It said the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, Malaysia's second prime minister who was Najib's father, had written a letter to Zhou Enlai, the then prime minister of China, in 1971.
The letter was sent through Tan Sri Michael Chen, at that time the secretary-general of the Alliance Party — predecessor of the present Barisan Nasional (BN), when a Malaysian team participated in a table tennis (ping pong) tournament in China in September 1971.
"I gave Zhou Enlai the letter written by Tun Abdul Razak in his capacity as the president of the OCM (Olympic Council Of Malaysia)," Chen told Bernama.
After reading the letter, Zhou instructed China's minister of foreign affairs to meet Chen. Their meeting, of 45 minutes' duration at the minister's office, paved the way for serious thinking on the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Three years later, Abdul Razak made a historic visit to China and both Malaysia and China established diplomatic ties on May 31, 1974, opening a new chapter in bilateral relations.
Malaysia became the first member country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to establish diplomatic relations with China.
"Tun Abdul Razak's visit stands out as perhaps the boldest initiative that Malaysia has ever taken in its eventful external policy," said Datuk Mohamed Jawhar Hassan, chairman and CEO of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS), Malaysia.
"It was also among the most visionary, given the enormous benefits that continue to accrue not only for Malaysia but also to Asean, China and the wider region," he wrote in an article published in a local newspaper last Thursday.
Relations between Malaysia and China have seen an upward trend in the last 35 years. From the 1990s, Sino-Malaysia relations reached new levels of development with the close cooperation extended to other areas such as trade, tourism, education, culture, science and health.
According to TheEdgeMalaysia,China is now Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner. By 2010, the trade volume is expected to amount to or exceed US$50 billion.