KUALA LUMPUR, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia is in strong support of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), and believes that BRI will bring progress to countries participating in BRI cooperation, said Tan Kok Wai, Malaysia's special envoy to China.
When the BRI was proposed in 2013, Malaysia was among the first countries to give a positive response, and the incumbent government led by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has continued the support for the initiative, said Tan, who was appointed as the special envoy last year and is now also the chairman of Malaysia China Business Council.
"Malaysia is in strong support of the initiative. And this is why our prime minister repeatedly voice out his confidence and his willingness to continue to actively participate in the BRI," Tan told Xinhua in a recent interview.
With BRI's emphasis on equal partnership, Malaysia believes participant countries would be able to enjoy greater economic growth and progress, he said, adding that Mahathir was among the first heads of government who confirmed attendance at the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation to be held in Beijing.
"After several years of participating in the BRI, we believe it should continue. We will also continue our active participation and support," he said.
The Belt and Road Initiative aims to build trade and infrastructure networks connecting Asia with Europe and Africa on and beyond the ancient Silk Road routes. It comprises the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
Tan described China as "an important country to Malaysia, a very important trading partner and a very traditional old friend," as the friendship between the two countries dated back hundreds of years, when Chinese navigator Zheng He visited Malacca five times during his great voyages.
Since Malaysia became the first country of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish formal diplomatic relations with China in 1974, the relations between the two countries have achieved "amazing" development, especially in bilateral trade, Tan said.
China has been Malaysia's largest trading partner since 2009, and total trade volume reached a historic high of 108.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2018, according to China's statistics. China has also become Malaysia's largest source of foreign direct investment for three years in a row in the same year.
"Malaysia and China have gone through years of mutual trust and close friendship. We have cooperated in many areas of interest," said Tan, adding that he believes the relations could progress even further on the existing strong footing.
"We actually share a lot of common interests at this policy, especially on multilateralism, on the global free trade. Malaysia share the same position, spirit and principles with China," he said.
Since the establishment of the incumbent Malaysian government last May, most of the positions of special envoys to other countries had been abolished, but the position of special envoy to China was maintained, according to Tan.
"This alone shows how much importance Malaysia places on China as an important partner as well as a friend," with whom it is worth to propel ahead to achieve a higher level of friendship and diplomatic relationship, he said.
As the special envoy to China, Tan said his main role is to promote trade, business investment and all the economic related activities between the two countries. He also assists in other areas of mutual interest, including tourism, cultural exchange and education.
"I hope I could play this role effectively and efficiently, to bring the relationship of our two countries to greater height," he said.