Officials and the media are giving great significance to Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s four-day official visit to China from today, comparing it to his father’s trip in 1974.
Abdul Razak was the first non-aligned Asian leader to embrace Mao Zedong . He was given a hero’s welcome at home, even by local Chinese who were angry with him after Malay soldiers killed Chinese civilians during race riots in 1969.
Similarly, Mr Najib, who became prime minister on April 3, is banking on his visit, made on the 35th anniversary of his father’s trip, to win back local Chinese who have deserted his National Front coalition for the alliance led by rival Anwar Ibrahim.
Even Chinese embassy officials emphasised the significance of the son following the father, something they say enhances trade and economic ties and helps local Chinese progress. The government has also trooped out diplomats, academics, professionals and business and community leaders to emphasise the significance of Mr Najib’s visit and praise Malaysia’s closeness to China.
The New Straits Times has given extensive coverage to Abdul’s 1974 visit and reminded the public the son is following in the father’s footsteps. National television is constantly showing images of Abdul shaking hands with Mao.
The highlight of Mr Najib’s visit is his meeting with Premier Wen Jiabao tomorrow.
Malaysian-Chinese support for the government has plummeted to 35 per cent from a high of 70 per cent in 2004. Perceived official arrogance towards minorities and anti-Chinese remarks by Malay leaders are blamed for the fall, along with failure to abolish pro-Malay economic policies.
To atone, Mr Najib is wooing Chinese, promising them equality and justice under his “1Malaysia concept” and has even shown willingness to dismantle pro-Malay policies.
His trip is a major opportunity for him to reassure local Chinese that he is “accepted and endorsed” by Beijing, burnishing an image battered by numerous controversies.
“He hopes to win acceptance by playing the China card with local Chinese,” said political analyst Khoo Kay Peng. “It worked for [Abdul] Razak but will not for Najib.” Mr Khoo said China was no longer such a mystery. “Malaysians know China well. They travel to China often. Chinese visit Malaysia often. The old magic is just not there any more.”
Veteran opposition lawmaker Lim Kit Siang agreed, saying Mr Najib would do better by dismantling pro-Malay policies, and promoting human rights. “Not just Chinese but all Malaysian races desire reform and change,” Mr Lim said. “As Malaysians, we Chinese don’t hold China in great awe any more.”
Source : South China Morning Post