Malaysia Asks ‘What Debt Trap?’ Amid Huge Deals with China

April 19 (EIRNS)—Following the renegotiated deal with China to revive the East-West rail project with a somewhat reduced scope and dramatically reduced price, Malaysia has now announced huge new deals with China. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s suspension of the “East Coast Rail Link” soon after his election last year has been used by the China-bashers as a key example of China’s supposedly “aggressive” use of big loans for infrastructure to gain control over developing countries, and somehow undermine U.S. influence in the Asia Pacific. Dr. Mahathir has always insisted the blame belonged to the corruption of the former regime, not China, and these new agreements demonstrate that he is fully intent to continue the country’s participation in the Belt and Road Initiative.

Dr. Mahathir announced April 19 that a huge, $34 billion urban development project with China, stalled since 2017, is being restored. The Bandar Malaysia project in the center of Kuala Lumpur will be both urban renewal and a major rail hub—including the terminal for the future high-speed rail connecting Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, which, however, is now on hold. China’s role in building the terminal in Kuala Lumpur increases the possibility that they will also get the rail contract when it comes up—several other companies have shown interest.

Dr. Mahathir told a press conference: “Like the East Coast Rail Link, the Bandar Malaysia project should be viewed within the larger context of fostering and cementing long-term bilateral relations between Malaysia and China while ensuring that such projects add maximum economic value to the country.”

Dr. Mahathir will lead a high-level delegation to the April 25-27 Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, holding bilateral talks with both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang, where several mega-deals are expected to be concluded.

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