PUTRAJAYA - A visit full of significant occasions befitting the 40th anniversary of Malaysia-China ties awaits Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak when he starts his six-day official trip to China tomorrow.
For one, the Chinese government is willing to oblige a Malaysian request that the celebration marking the occasion be held on May 31, a public holiday in China, which happens to be the day Kuala Lumpur-Beijing ties were formalised in 1974.
The close relationship between the two nations would be further emphasised when Chinese President Xi Jinping sets aside normal protocol by hosting a private dinner for Najib.
"Usually Chinese presidents don't give a private dinner. Usually they just attend the bilateral meeting (with a visiting dignitary) and dinner is given by the prime minister.
"But this time around, he is not only receiving me but also accords a private dinner. That is very, very significant," Najib told senior editors here yesterday ahead of the visit.
Najib is scheduled to meet Xi on Friday in Beijing, after which they will attend the private dinner.
The decision by Najib's father, Malaysia's second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein to establish ties with Communist China in 1974 was seen as a bold move at that time, with Malaysia being the first South-East Asian country to do so.
Sharing his experience, Najib said former Chinese premier Wen Jiabao, during his visits to Malaysia, would insist that Najib's mother Tun Rahah Mohammad Noah attended some of the events lined up for him.
"This is very unusual because leaders (of other governments) would take relations more as a government-to-government level but China has taken it as a family kind of relationship," he said of the Malaysia-China relations.
Observers said Najib had further nurtured the strong bonds established by his late father with China across a wide spectrum of activities, from trade and investment to education, agriculture, defence and people-to-people ties.
A Malaysian government official said Najib would likely push the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing trade agenda, eyeing the volume to be more than US$100 billion (S$125 billion) recorded last year.
A government official hinted that the trade volume with China could hit US$160 billion annually as underlined in the five-year economic and trade cooperation programme between the two countries.
Malaysia, he said, wanted to attract a portion of the projected outbound Chinese investment of US$500 billion over the next five years.
The Malaysian ambassador to China Datuk Iskandar Sarudin told the media on Monday that the close-knit ties between the two countries are demonstrated by the annual Malaysia-Xi'an Halal Food Festival Week, Tho Xin Yi reports.
"This is the third time we are having this event at the historic Muslim Street.
"As far as I am concerned, Malaysia is the only country given the permission to host the food festival at one of the most visited places in this city," he said, adding that Najib would officiate at the festival during his visit here.
On the 40th anniversary of bilateral ties, Iskandar said that five government-to-government agreements on the areas of defence, science and technology and trade would be signed during Najib's visit.