Malaysia an honest friend and partner of China

Najib, MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai, Xi and Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman sharing a light moment at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing.

BEIJING - China values Malaysia as a trustworthy friend and an important partner, said Chinese President Xi Jinping when receiving a courtesy call from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the Diaoyutai State Guest House here.

In a meeting of delegates from both countries yesterday, Xi emphasised that China appreciated the friendly ties with Malaysia which began 40 years ago.

"Both sides have to make the effort, seize the opportunity, overcome the challenges and deepen the comprehensive strategic partnership," he said.

Xi expressed hope for cooperation in the areas of connectivity, aerospace, finance and others to be strengthened.

Najib, whose father Tun Abdul Razak Hussein facilitated the start of the relationship between Malaysia and China, hoped both countries would continue to fulfil the vision and promises of their past leaders.

On the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, Najib promised that Malaysia would work closely with China and other relevant parties on the search until the truth is found.

"This is our responsibility to the passengers' families," he added.

During the meeting, Najib also informed Xi of the release of the Chinese tourist abducted by Filipino gunmen in Sabah last month, and promised that she would be escorted home immediately.

Earlier, Najib paid a courtesy call on Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the standing committee of the Chinese National People's Congress at the Great Hall of the People here.

Today, when Najib arrives at the cavernous Great Hall of the People for the celebration of the 40th anniversary of Malaysia-China diplomatic relations, it is not just national and personal history that will be on his mind.

Named the Malaysia-China Year of Friendly Exchanges, 2014 has also subjected those ties to a tremendous ongoing test in the form of the MH370 incident.

At the same time, this year offers many reasons for Malaysia and China to be optimistic about how much more they can work and benefit together.

It is this melding of past, present and future importance that makes the celebration truly meaningful, not just for Najib - exactly four decades ago, his father was in the same building to sign a joint communique that paved the way for China and Malaysia to be friends - but also for all Malaysians and Chinese.

So far in this six-day visit that ends tomorrow, Najib has referred a few times to that moment last October when he and Xi agreed to upgrade bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Increasing trade and investments is an obvious imperative; after all, fast-growing China is the world's second largest economy, and Malaysia is in the midst of economic transformation.

Thus, both countries aim to increase total trade volume to US$160bil (RM514bil) within five years. And there is a call for more Chinese investments in Malaysia.

But it is not all business. On Thursday, Najib and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang witnessed the exchange of documents for government-to-government arrangements in matters such as defence, culture, diplomacy and industry.

There will be more high-level visits between the two countries this year.

It is a far cry from 1974, when several countries in the region, including Malaysia, had good reasons to fear communism, and the world was generally wary of China.

The Malaysian Government's decision to begin talks with China was both bold and far-sighted.

China has not forgotten that it was not an easy first step to take for the Malaysian leadership.

As Li put it at the bilateral meeting on Thursday, the signing of the joint communique by Abdul Razak and Premier Zhou Enlai opened a new chapter in the relations between the two countries. Many more chapters have been added since then.

The relationship had its ups and downs - the MH370 mystery has been "very painful and testing", said Najib - but Malaysia and China remained trusting and patient friends.

Said Li at the bilateral meeting: "Chinese people say that at the age of 40, one should no longer have any doubts."

Today is the start of a long weekend for China because Monday is a public holiday for the Dragon Boat Festival.

Nevertheless, Li will be at Great Hall of the People this morning to attend the celebration.

What is a holiday between friends?