Political parties hoping to unseat Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak (pictured) in next month’s general election have seized on a degree of public resentment surrounding the billions of dollars China is pouring into Malaysian infrastructure and real estate.
Malaysia has secured around $34bn worth of loans for projects under China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI), making it one of the biggest beneficiaries so far, along with Pakistan and Sri Lanka, reports Reuters, citing a Nomura report.
But there have been objections over Chinese workers getting jobs over locals, a dependence on Chinese materials, and Malaysian firms being passed over for contracts.
That has now been turned into an election issue by opposition leader Mahathir Mohamad, who heads an alliance hoping to oust Najib at the election on 9 May.
"Coming in here, buying land, developing luxurious towns, is not beneficial for us," the Mohamad, 92, told Reuters. "Quite definitely, we will review."
The numerous schemes being financed and built by Chinese entities include the $13bn East Coast Rail Link and the £100bn Forest City residential mega-development in Johor state, developed by China’s Country Garden.
Johor locals have complained that large numbers of Chinese people are buying Forest City properties, Reuters reported.
The prime minister has defended China’s investment, saying at a recent groundbreaking ceremony for the rail link that Malaysia would have been "stupid" not to receive Chinese investment, because it offered a loan for 85% of the project value with a grace period of seven years, said Reuters.
According to the news agency, Razak’s coalition is expected to win the election.
Image: Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak says Malaysia would be "stupid" not to work with China (Wikimedia Commons)