by Hu Guangyao
KUALA LUMPUR, May 24 (Xinhua) -- Malaysia and China have witnessed substantial progress in their relations over the last 40 years, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said in an exclusive written interview with Xinhua on Saturday.
The prime minister, who is to pay an official visit to China from May 27 to June 1 on the occasion of 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, said "the Joint Communique signed between the Malaysian Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, my father, and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai on May 31, 1974 in Beijing during the former's historic visit to China has paved the way for the excellent state of bilateral relations both our countries are enjoying today."
"Malaysia was the first ASEAN country to formalize relations with China and the first to open its resident embassy in Beijing," he said.
"The current snapshot of Malaysia-China relations is one that is closely connected and multi-faceted. The pursuit of opportunity and prosperity continues to be the hallmark of the relationship, one that both our countries can mutually benefit from. It's also contributed to the harmony and stability in the region and the furtherance of its vibrant and dynamic socio-economic development. "
"The arrival of the giant pandas on May 21 has underscored our close and friendly relations. The giant pandas serve as a symbol of the long lasting friendship between our two countries," he said.
"The elevation of relations between Malaysia and China from strategic cooperation to comprehensive strategic partnership entails enhancing cooperation in various fields such as trade, investment, tourism, education, financial services, infrastructure development, law enforcement and defense," he added.
On economic cooperation, the prime minister said the Five-Year Program for Economic and Trade Cooperation signed by Malaysia and China in October 2013 during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Malaysia sets out a number of priorities.
The program which maps out economic and trade cooperation between the two countries in the next five years sets a target of 160 billion U.S. dollars in annual trade, to be achieved by 2017.
An important component of Malaysia-China economic collaboration is the Qinzhou Industrial Park in Guangxi, southern China, and the Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park project in northern Malaysia, the prime minister noted, adding, "This is the first time a twin park model has been introduced anywhere in the world."
In the field of tourism, Najib said, China is regarded as an important market for Malaysia. In 2013, Chinese tourist arrivals to Malaysia constituted 7 percent of the total foreign tourist arrivals to almost 1.8 million, up 15 percent on year.
Malaysia is expecting to attract 2 million Chinese tourists this year, he said.