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Malaysia PM warns against attempts to block China’s rise

WorldMalaysia PM warns against attempts to block China's rise

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim delivers the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, on March 7, 2024.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim delivers the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia, on March 7, 2024.
| Photo Credit: AP

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim warned Thursday against attempts by other countries to block China’s military and economic rise in the Asia-Pacific region.

As the United States and China jostle for regional influence, Southeast Asian countries should defend the “sanctity” of international law and urge cooperation, he said.

Beijing would see attempts to curb its military and economic expansion as a denial of its “legitimate place in history”, Mr. Anwar said in a speech at the Australian National University in Canberra.

“The obstacles that have been placed against China’s economic and technological advancement will only further accentuate such grievances,” he said.

The Malaysian prime minister was speaking after a meeting of Australian and Southeast Asian leaders in Melbourne that was dominated by discussion of China’s aggressive stance in the region.

Beijing claims almost the entirety of the South China Sea as its own, ignoring international legal precedent and competing claims from a host of Southeast Asian nations.

This week, Chinese boats in the Spratly Islands were accused of hounding Philippines vessels. Beijing in turn accused the United States of using the Philippines as a “pawn” in the region.

Mr. Anwar insisted that he was not suggesting countries should “turn a blind eye” to breaches of international law.

“A sense of foreboding has seeped into the discourse on the future of our region,” Mr. Anwar said, drawing a contrast with turn-of-the-century optimism about free trade helping to build alliances and moderate rivalries.

“Globalisation is decidedly under assault, economic interdependence is now seen as indicative of duress or, worse, of buckling under the weight of coercion,” he said.

“For some countries, the preservation of stability warrants nothing less than a more muscular approach towards international affairs.”

Mr. Anwar, who will host next year’s Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, said multilateral institutions such as the 10-member bloc needed to ensure the region was resilient to power shifts.

“We must invest in institutions that will enable us to adapt to change peacefully without denying any nation of their rightful place in the global economy.”

Great uncertainty in the world highlighted the need for strong, universally recognised laws and more modern multilateral institutions, he said.

Mr. Anwar rebuked Western countries, with a “few exceptions”, for condemning the Russian invasion of Ukraine while remaining “utterly silent on the relentless bloodletting inflicted on innocent men, women and children of Gaza”.

“Unfortunately, the gut-wrenching tragedy that continues to unfold in the Gaza Strip has laid bare the self-serving nature of (the) much vaunted rules-based order,” he said.

“The differing responses by the West to human suffering defy reason.”

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