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Malaysia-China Relations in the Post-Mahathir Era
levels of analysis
When dealing with foreign affairs in international society, Malaysia’s diplomatic policy has always been pragmatic in nature. While upholding its national interests, Malaysian government avoids direct confrontation with major powers and plays a benign role among its counterparts. Malaysia-China relations, to Malaysia, are not just about facing the China’s rise, but also show Malaysia’s consideration of its external conditions and domestic political atmosphere. The foundation of the bilateral ties between these two countries was forged during Mahathir’s administration. Although Mahathir’s successors continued his China policy, Malaysia-China relations have moved to another stage due to the change in international environment, the development of national political economy and the shift in political leadership. This research aims to examine the diplomatic relations between Malaysia and China through three levels of analysis, i.e., international level, state level and individual level. The author analyzes the shift and continuity in Malaysia-China relations under both Abdullah Badawi’s and Najib’s premierships, in order to understand the factors contributing to the development of the relationship in the post-Mahathir era. The findings of the research conclude that the successive government after Mahathir’s leadership has taken no major shift in Malaysia’s China policy but has made some adjustments. The outcome of three levels of analysis shows that the individual level had significant influence on Malaysia-China relations during Abdullah Badawi’s administration due to his personality and political ideology differing from those of his predecessor. On the contrary, there have been profound changes in international political economy since Najib took the helm, significantly affecting Najib’s China policy.
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