SPRING FESTIVAL RECEPTION HOSTED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
SPEECH BY THE CHIEF MINISTER OF PENANG YAB TUAN CHOW KON YEOW FOR THE SPRING FESTIVAL RECEPTION HOSTED BY THE PEOPLE’S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
11 January 2023
SPICE CONVENTION CENTRE
H.E. Mr. Zhou Youbin
Chinese Consul-General in Penang
YB Dato’ Law Choo Kiang
Speaker of the Penang State Assembly
YB Loh Sze Yee
Representative of the Perak Menteri Besar
YB Robert Ling Kui Ee
Representative of the Kedah Menteri Besar
Members of the State Executive Council, Members of Parliament and State Legislative Assembly for the states of Penang, Perak, Kedah and Perlis
H.E. Mr. Raschada Jiwalai
The Consul-General of Thailand in Penang
H.E. Bapak Bambang Suharto
The Consul-General of The Republic of Indonesia in Penang
H.E. Mr. KAWAGUCHI Yoshiyasu
The Consul-General of Japan in Penang
Leaders & Representatives from Chinese associations and education institutions
Friends from the media
Ladies & Gentlemen
A very good evening to all.
In less than two weeks, we will gather with our family and friends to joyously celebrate the arrival of the Water Rabbit. But before we embrace the new lunar year, it is also a time for us to reflect on the lessons learnt. And what a teacher the Water Tiger has been. With the spirit of boldness and valor commonly associated with the Tiger, we too have overcome the many challenges thrown our way in 2022. Having emerged stronger, we can now look forward to the next 12 lunar months for a Rabbit year is generally believed to bring happiness and good luck.
On that note, I am honoured to be here with all of you at the annual Spring Festival Reception hosted by the People’s Republic of China. Mindful of the disruptions to our societal ties over the past few years, this evening’s gathering is indeed a positive start to usher in the new year, new beginnings and a new chapter in the long-standing friendship between our two nations.
Backed by a strong historical link, modern day diplomatic relations between China and Malaysia started in 1974 and is now in its 49th year. If we were to view it in terms of a human lifespan, the years would have seen a person transitioning from childhood to adulthood. From the innocence of youth to the experiences of being an adult, each of us here would agree that growing up meant journeying through the passage of time dotted with hard-earned triumphs and the occasional setbacks.
Indeed, the Covid-19 pandemic was a great universal challenge that forced many nations, communities and even individuals to confront and address their own shortcomings. In times like these, it was heartening to see the mutual co-operation and assistance rendered between China and Malaysia which benefitted our citizens, and one that truly reflected our nations’ warm friendship and mutual goodwill.
While we continue to fight against Covid-19, the challenge now includes a different dimension – getting our people back on their feet. This recovery process is another uncharted path for us, especially when citizens’ livelihoods were affected by the years in economic doldrums and many left to grapple with declining mental well-being.
For Malaysians, we also had the recent 15th General Elections which led to the formation of our first ever unity federal government. This is certainly a watershed moment for Malaysia’s history. At state-level, Penang and 5 other states will be carrying out their respective state elections this year at a timing that is anyone’s guess for now.
Given that the Consulate-General of China in Penang maintains effective exchanges and co-operation with Malaysia’s northern region states like Penang and Kedah, I’m sure His Excellency Zhou will be on his toes with Malaysia’s unfolding political landscape.
Domestic politics aside, 2023 looks set to be an exciting year for Malaysia’s tourism industry. The reopening of China’s international borders following years of travel restrictions will certainly result in a high surge of visitors into and out of the country. With an approximate total of 2.94 million Chinese tourists having visited Malaysia in 2019 and China being Malaysia’s third biggest tourism market, we look forward to welcoming our friends from China back to our shores.
Banking on Penang’s appeal as an idyllic holiday destination and our gastronomic flavours that will please the most discerning of palates, I am confident that we can rebuild and strengthen our tourism industry.
I would also like to note that the recent resumption of direct flights by Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and Penang will be an added impetus to our nations’ efforts in encouraging more exchanges and co-operation.
In this respect, I am further delighted to read that Malaysia continues to be the preferred destination for entrepreneurs from China. With an increase in bilateral trade of 18.5% on year-on-year basis worth USD184.75 billion or RM813.55 billion for the period between January-November 2022, China is expected to cement her position as Malaysia’s largest trading partner for the 14th consecutive year.
While Penang recently celebrated its 50th anniversary of industrialisation in 2022, I am confident that the state’s robust industrial ecosystem and landscape that offer enormous prospect for value creation will continue to attract foreign investors for years to come.
I also hope that more Chinese-funded enterprises would ride on the “Belt and Road” and with the assistance of the Consulate-General of China in Penang, bring more investments into Malaysia’s northern states. We will be stronger, together.
On that note, I wish everyone an enjoyable evening ahead and let us toast to a warm and lasting friendship between our two countries for years to come.