China-Malaysia Relations and Foreign Policy

By Yanqing, He | International Journal of China Studies, April 2016 | Go to article overview

China-Malaysia Relations and Foreign Policy


Yanqing, He, International Journal of China Studies


Abdul Razak Baginda, China-Malaysia Relations and Foreign Policy, London and New York: Routledge, 2016, 255+xv.

China is today Malaysia's largest trading partner, while Malaysia has also become China's largest trade partner among the ASEAN countries for seven consecutive years. For both China and Malaysia, the bilateral relationship has become very important and will be even more so in the future. Therefore, as the first study in the English language devoted to the history of bilateral relations between Malaysia and China, this book has its important practical significance and academic value because of its groundbreaking explorations and useful researches in this field.

At the beginning of the book, the author raises two key questions: First, why did Malaysia decide to normalize relations with China? Second, why did Malaysia become the first country in ASEAN to establish diplomatic relations with China? Then, the author uses the theoretical framework - Foreign Policy Analysis (FPA) and intends to define the parameters for Malaysia's foreign policy. The author believes that the domestic-external linkages as well as personality factors were the main factors driving Malaysia's policy towards China. Subsequently, the author divides the history of Malaysia-China relations into five sections in chronological order (which also constitute five main chapters). They are: 1957-1966, from independence to the end of Konfrontasi; 1967-1969, shifts in Malaysia's internal and external environments; 1970-1972, Tun Razak and changes in Malaysian foreign policy; 1972-1974, the decision-making process and the road towards normalization; 1974, an assessment of Razak's China visit.

In each of these chapters, the author surveys the general foreign policy towards China, Malaysian domestic politics, external factors, Malaysian political leaders' personalities and the role of the government bureaucracy. And at the end of the book, the author discusses the meaning and limits of normalizing ties with China and concludes that: the country's normalization policy was mainly driven by domestic considerations, while the personality of the main leaders also played an important role in the decision-making process. The ASEAN countries received no prior consultations on the normalization and in fact there were elements of competition amongst some countries in trying to be the first in establishing diplomatic relationships with China. …

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