China has its embassy in Kuala Lumpur, and consulate-general offices in George Town, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching. Malaysia maintains its embassy in Beijing, as well as consulate offices in Kunming, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xi'an and Hong Kong.
Both countries are claimants in the South China Sea dispute and in recent times has resulted in some friction, mainly from Malaysia. A 2014 survey conducted by the Pew Research Center showed 66% of Malaysians were concerned that territorial disputes between China and neighbouring countries could lead to a military conflict. Although according to a survey conducted by Merdeka Center in 2017 showed 70% Malaysians positively support China’s presence and investment in their country.
On a visit to China in November 2016, the current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Razak, announced ties between the two countries are "set to reach new highs" after the two countries signed a series of agreements on energy and defence.
Kunlun or Malay sailors were known in China by the third century BC, and there is evidence that had begun to settle along East African coast by the first century CE. By the time of Roman Empire, there were permanent communities of Malayo-Polynesian speaking people on the coast of Malagasy, where they remain to this day.
Chinese records from the fifth and sixth centuries AD note that products were shipped in kunlun vessels, apparently referring to maritime Southeast Asia vessels. By the seventh century, the term kunlun refer specifically to coastal people of the Malay region. By the ninth century, in Yiqiejing yingyi (815), Hui-Lin note that kunlun bo (Malay ship) were arriving regularly at Gulf of Tonkin and along south eastern Chinese coast.
Ming Dynasty alliance with Malacca Sultanate
The Sultanate of Malacca voluntarily became a protectorate and tributary state to Ming dynasty China, which protected Malacca against its enemies with military force, allowing the Muslim Sultanate to prosper. The Chinese warded off Siam and Majapahit from conquering Malacca, and also engaged in war against Portugal for conquering Malacca.
At the foundation of Malacca, the native peoples were the peoples with Hinduism and Buddhism influence. According to the annals record, at the time Parameswara founded Malacca, the country was often attacked by the old enemies Majapahit and the rivals from northern area of Malacca, Ayutthaya Kingdom. Malacca was not able to hold position and fight back the enemies. Parameswara decided to send his ambassador to visit the Emperor of China, one of the superpower of the period, the Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and both agreed to become allies. Ever since the agreement between Malacca Empire and China Empire, the Ayutthaya Kingdom and Majapahit Empire never intended to attack Malacca. Later some record suggested that during the trade activities and arrival of the Chinese-Muslim admiral Zheng He, Parameswara converted to Islam and adopted an Islamic name, Sultan Iskandar Shah. The new religion spread quickly throughout his conversion and the voyage of Zheng He.
Ming dynasty China warned Thailand and the Majapahit against trying to conquer and attack the Malacca sultanate, placing the Malacca Sultanate under Chinese protection as a protectorate, and giving the ruler of Malacca the title of King. The Chinese strengthened several warehouses in Malacca. The Muslim Sultanate flourished due to the Chinese protection against the Thai and other powers who wanted to attack Malacca. Thailand was also a tributary to China and had to obey China's orders not to attack.
After Vietnam (Annam) destroyed Champa in the 1471 Vietnamese invasion of Champa, they proceeded to engage in hostilities with Malacca with the intent of conquest. The Chinese government sent a censor, Ch'en Chun, to Champa in 1474 to install the Champa King, but he discovered Vietnamese (Annamese) soldiers had taken over Champa and were blocking his entry. He proceeded to Malacca instead and its ruler sent back tribute to China. Malacca again sent envoys to China in 1481 to inform the Chinese that, while Malaccan envoys were returning to Malacca from China in 1469, the Vietnamese attacked the Malaccans, killing some of them while castrating the young and enslaving them. The Malaccans reported that Vietnam was in control of Champa and also sought to conquer Malacca, but the Malaccans did not fight back, because they did not want to fight against another state that was a tributary to China without permission from the Chinese. They requested to confront the Vietnamese delegation to China which was in China at the time, but the Chinese informed them since the incident was years old, they could do nothing about it, and the Emperor sent a letter to the Vietnamese ruler reproaching him for the incident. The Chinese Emperor also ordered the Malaccans to raise soldiers and fight back with violent force if the Vietnamese attacked them again.
After the Portuguese invaded and destroyed the Malacca sultanate at the Capture of Malacca (1511), it established the Portuguese Malacca colony. The Chinese reacted with extreme anger at the Portuguese invasion of its ally and refused to accept a Portuguese embassy after the attack.
The Chinese Imperial Government imprisoned and executed multiple Portuguese envoys after torturing them in Guangzhou. The Malaccans had informed the Chinese of the Portuguese seizure of Malacca, to which the Chinese responded with hostility toward the Portuguese. The Malaccans told the Chinese of the deception the Portuguese used, disguising plans for conquering territory as mere trading activities, and told of all the atrocities committed by the Portuguese.
Due to the Malaccan Sultan lodging a complaint against the Portuguese invasion to the Chinese Emperor, the Portuguese were greeted with hostility from the Chinese when they arrived in China. The Sultan's complaint caused "a great deal of trouble" to Portuguese in China. The Chinese were very "unwelcoming" to the Portuguese. The Malaccan Sultan, based in Bintan after fleeing Malacca, sent a message to the Chinese, which combined with Portuguese banditry and violent activity in China, led the Chinese authorities to execute 23 Portuguese and torture the rest of them in jails. After the Portuguese set up posts for trading in China and committed piratical activities and raids in China, the Chinese responded with the complete extermination of the Portuguese in Ningbo and Quanzhou.
The Chinese had sent a message to the deposed Sultan (King) of Malacca concerning the fate of the Portuguese embassy, which the Chinese held prisoner. When they received his reply, the Chinese officials then proceeded to executed the Portuguese embassy, slicing their bodies into multiple pieces.
Chinese traders boycotted Malacca after it fell under Portuguese control, some Chinese in Java assisted in Muslim attempts to reconquer the city from Portugal using ships. The Java Chinese participation in retaking Malacca was recorded in "The Malay Annals of Semarang and Cerbon". trading the Chinese did business with Malays and Javanese instead of the Portuguese.
However, with gradual improvement of relations and aid given against the Wokou pirates along China's shores, by 1557 Ming China finally agreed to allow the Portuguese to settle at Macau in a new Portuguese trade colony. The Malay Sultanate of Johor also improved relations with the Portuguese and fought alongside them against the Aceh Sultanate.
In old times the first group of Chinese people in Malaysia used to be held in high regard by Malays. Some old Malays in the past may have taken the word "Baba", referring to Chinese males, and put it into their name, when this used to be the case.
Diplomatic relations were established in 1974.
Following the end of the Cold War, diplomatic foreign relations between China and Malaysia immediately and positively changed. That being said, political and cultural connections between the two nations began to strengthen. Both countries are full members of APEC, and there is a sizeable population of Chinese in Malaysia.
Malaysian and Chinese officials meet together at the Strategic Consultation meetings which is held alternately between Malaysia and China every year. The Strategic Consultation meetings began as bilateral consultations in 1991. The consultation meetings were made to share and exchange views on various bilateral, regional and issues of mutual interest and also to follow up on matters discussed by the leaders of both countries. The bilateral consultations was later renamed as strategic consultation in 2010 to reflect the growing importance of Malaysia-China relations within the political-security framework of the Asia-Pacific region. The first one was held in Putrajaya in 2011 while the second was held in Beijing in 2012.
Bilateral exchange activities that have been done by Malaysia and China as of 2012 are the establishment of China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park and Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park in (the latter officially opened on 5 February 2013), and the speedy approval by China to loan a pair giant pandas for Malaysia. Both countries also exchange views on current developments happening in the South East Asia. Both countries are adhered to the letter Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the SEA (South East Asia) which continues the peace and stability that benefits China and the South East Asia region.
On 28 August 2012, Malaysia and China officials at the 2nd Strategic Consultation between Malaysia and China in Beijing agreed to make 2014 as "Malaysia-China Friendship Year" to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. The Malaysian delegation led by the Malaysia's Foreign Ministry's secretary-general Tan Sri Mohd Radzi Abdul Rahman and China's Vice-Foreign Minister Fu Ying also agreed that appropriate activities would be organised to celebrate the occasion.
On 16 April 2014, China has planned to send two pairs of pandas named Fu Wa and Feng Yi to Malaysia to mark their 40-year anniversary of diplomatic ties, but were however postponed following the Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 incident. The two pandas later arrived at Kuala Lumpur International Airport on 21 May 2014 and are placed at the National Zoo of Malaysia (Zoo Negara).
Economic trade and relations
Malaysia has been China's top trading partner within Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) for five years in a row since 2008. The two-way trade volume between China and Malaysia in 2013 reached $106 billion, making Malaysia China's third-largest trade partner in Asia, just behind Japan and South Korea and eighth largest overall. On 31 May 2014, during Najib Razak's visit to China where he was welcomed by China's Premier Li Keqiang, China and Malaysia pledged to increase bilateral trade to US$160 billion by 2017. They also agreed to upgrade economic and financial co-operation, especially in the production of halal food, water processing and railway construction. China's transformation into a major economic power in the 21st century has led to an increase of foreign investments in the bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.
China subsequently emerged as the major investor in Malaysia, funding large infrastructure projects nationwide with a huge investment with the country become the platform for China firms' to enter ASEAN markets. Following the widespread of Chinese economic influence in Malaysia, there is also a report of Mainland Chinese gangs has spread their illegal businesses into Malaysia.
Malaysian Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen says there are 1.25 million tourist from China coming to Malaysia in 2011. The ministry expects the target of 1.5 million tourists in 2012 and two million for the Visit Malaysia Year 2013/2014. In 2012, the Tourism Office of the Government of Macau opened the Macau Gallery in Malacca to strengthen ties between Macau and Malaysia in tourism and culture sectors.
Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that China was not a threat to anyone in the South China Sea dispute and was not worried about aggression from China, accusing the United States of provoking China and trying to turn China's neighbours against China. Mahathir believes Malaysia could profit from China's economic growth through co-operation with China, although he has repeatedly slammed the Chinese investment in Malaysia for his fear over the large migration of new Chinese people to Malaysia.
In March 2013, Malaysian authorities were seen as displaying no concern over China conducting a military exercise at James Shoal. On August 2013, Malaysian minister suggested that it might work with China over their South China Sea claims and ignore the other claimants, with its Defence Minister Hishamuddin Hussein saying that Malaysia had no problem with China patrolling the South China Sea, and telling ASEAN, America, and Japan that "Just because you have enemies, doesn’t mean your enemies are my enemies". On 22 December 2014, China and Malaysia held their first ever military exercise.
In June 2015, Malaysian authorities began to lodged a protest to China after a Chinese vessel was detected entering Malaysian waters and found anchored at Luconia Shoals. This was followed with Chinese ambassador in Kuala Lumpur been summoned in 31 March 2016 to protest the presence of around 100 Chinese fishing boats at Luconia Shoals. Despite the intrusion on Malaysian territory, the Malaysian federal government rarely rebuked China in public to avoid disturbances to Sino-Malay relations as Beijing emerges as the Malaysian economy's main investors. A Malaysian think tank and chief executive of the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs, Wan Saiful Wan Jan said:
Kuala Lumpur has consistently played down China’s activities in our territories. This could be to protect our commercial interest, or it could also be to avoid the public...realising how useless our defences are.
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One of the great beneficiaries of Chinese naval power in the early years of the fifteenth century was the city-state of Malacca...Perceiving threats from Majapahit and the Tai who were extending their power down the Malay peninsula, Paramesvara looked to the more distant Chinese as a counterweight. He responded quickly to Ming overtures, sent a tribute mission to China in 1405 and was invested as king of Malacca by the Ming emperor. Visits by Zheng He's fleets left little doubt in the region that Malacca had become a Chinese protectorate. Taking no chances, Paramesvara personally led tribute mission to Peking on two or three occasions. Having overrun the Chinese protectorate at Malacca, the Portuguese now prepared to challenge the region's hegemonic power.
- Kenneth Warren Chase (7 July 2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-521-82274-9.
The Chinese recognised Malacca as an independent state and warned the king of Thailand not to meddle with it. Nevertheless, the Chinese did not seek to establish colonies overseas, even when they anchored in places with large Chinese populations, like Sumatra and Java. They turned Malacca into a kind of protectorate and built a fortified warehouse there, but that was about it.
- Tobias Rettig; Karl Hack (21 December 2005). Colonial Armies in Southeast Asia. Routledge. pp. 21–. ISBN 978-1-134-31476-8.
Important legacy of Chinese imperialism... by intervening in the Malacca Straits in a way that facilitated the rise of Malacca, and protected it from depredations from Thailand (Siam) and from Java's state of Majapahit; Malacca having been founded by a ruler fleeing Singapore in the fact of Thai and Javanese hostility. Malacca repeatedly sent envoys to China. China in turn claimed the power to deter other tributary states, such as Thailand, from interfering with Malacca, and also claimed to have raised the 'chief' of Malacca to the status of king in 1405, and Malacca to a protected polity in 1410. Malacca as a Muslim Sultanate consolidated itself and thrived precisely in an era of Chinese-led 'globalisation'. which was gathering pace by the late fourteenth century, and peaked at this time.
- Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Straits Branch; Reinhold Rost (1887). Miscellaneous Papers Relating to Indo-China: Reprinted for the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society from Dalrymple's "Oriental Repertory," and the "Asiatic Researches" and "Journal" of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Trübner & Company. pp. 251–.
In the year 1474 the censor Ch'en Chun went to Champa with an imperial commission to invest the king there, but on his arrival, he found the country occupied by Annamese soldiers, so that he could not enter it; he then went to Malacca, with the goods he had brought, and ordered its king to send tribute; when, subsequently, his envoys arrived at the capital, the emperor was much pleased, and issued a decree in which they were praised. report that the envoys of their country, who had returned from China in 1469. had been driven by a storm on the coast of Annam, where many of their people were killed; the rest had been made slaves, and the younger ones had further undergone castration. They also told that the Annamese now occupied Champa, and that they wanted to conquer their country too, but that Malacca, remembering that they all were subjects of the emperor, hitherto had abstained from reciprocating these hostilities. At the same time the envoys with the tribute of Annam arrived also, and the envoys of Malacca requested permission to argue the question with them before the court, but the Board of War submitted that the affair was already old, and that it was of no use to investigate it any more. When therefore the envoys of Annam returned, the emperor gave them a letter in which their king was reproved, and Malacca received instructions to raise soldiers and resist by force, whenever it was attacked by Annam.
- Shih-shan Henry Tsai (1996). The Eunuchs in the Ming Dynasty. SUNY Press. ISBN 978-0-7914-2687-6.
Other reports condemned Annamese alleged violation of an Asian "diplomatic protocol" as they killed and enslaved several Southeast Asian envoys who carried tributary missions to China in 1469. Older members of the mission were all killed while younger members were castrated and enslaved.
- Kenneth Warren Chase (7 July 2003). Firearms: A Global History to 1700. Cambridge University Press. pp. 142–. ISBN 978-0-521-82274-9.
The Portuguese spent several years trying to establish formal relations with China, but Malacca had been part of the Chinese tributary system, and the Chinese had found out about the Portuguese attack, making them suspicious. The embassy was formally rejected in 1521.
- Nigel Cameron (1976). Barbarians and mandarins: thirteen centuries of Western travelers in China. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-09229-4.
Envoy, had most effectively poured out his tale of woe, of deprivation at the hands of the Portuguese in Malacca; and he had backed up the tale with others concerning the reprehensible Portuguese methods in the Moluccas, making the case (quite truthfully) that European trading visits were no more than the prelude to annexation of territory. With the tiny sea power at this time available to the Chinese.
- Ahmad Ibrahim; Sharon Siddique; Yasmin Hussain (1985). Readings on Islam in Southeast Asia. Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. pp. 11–. ISBN 978-9971-988-08-1.
In China was far from friendly; this, it seems, had something to do with the complaint which the ruler of Malacca, conquered by the Portuguese in 1511, had lodged with the Chinese emperor, his suzerain.
- John Horace Parry (1 January 1981). The Discovery of the Sea. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-04237-7.
In 1511... Alboquerque himself sailed ... to attack Malacca...The Sultan of Malacca fled down the coast, to establish himself in the marshes of Johore, whence he sent petitions for redress to his remote suzerain, the Chinese Emperor. These petitions later caused the Portuguese, in their efforts to gain admission to trade at Canton, a great deal of trouble. When the Portuguese tried to penetrate, in their own ships, to Canton itself, their reception by the Chinese authorities—understandably, in view of their reputation at Malacca—was unwelcoming, and several decades elapsed before they secured a tolerated toehold at Macao.
- Ernest Stanley Dodge (1976). Islands and Empires: Western Impact on the Pacific and East Asia. University Of Minnesota Press. pp. 226–. ISBN 978-1-4529-0822-9.
The inexusable behaviour of the Portuguese, combined with the ill-chosen language of the letters which Pires presented to the celestial emperor, supplemented by a warning from the Malay sultan of Bintan, persuaded the Chinese that Pires was indeed up to no good.
- Tome Pires (1 January 1990). Suma Oriental of Tome Pires - 2 Vols. Asian Educational Services. ISBN 978-81-206-0535-0.
A message came to the king of Bintang from his ambassador [in Canton], and the man who brought it soon returned. The report which the king of Bintang was spreading in the country is that the Chinese intended to come against Malacca. This is not very certain, though there are things that may happen. If they come, they will do great harm, unless the Captain-major [of India] shall come in time, as I am writing to him. . . The man who brought a message to the king of Bintang 'soon returned', says Jorge de Albuquerque. Vieira tells us that the junk 'returned with a message from the king of Malacca, and reached Canton on the 5th September' (fol.110V.). . . 'On the day of St. Nicholas [6 Dec.] in the year 1522 they put boards on them [the Portuguese prisoners] with the sentence that they should die and be exposed in pillories as robbers. The sentences said: "Petty sea robbers sent by the great tobber falsely; they come to spy out our country; let them die in pillories as robbers." a report was sent to the king according to the information of the mandarins, and the king confirmed the sentence. On 23 Sept. 1523 these twenty-three persons were each one cut in pieces, to wit, heads, legs, arms, and their private members placed in their mouths, the trunk of the body being divided into two pices around the belly.
- C. Guillot; Denys Lombard; Roderich Ptak (1 January 1998). From the Mediterranean to the China Sea: Miscellaneous Notes. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 179–. ISBN 978-3-447-04098-3.
Chinese authors have argued, the Malacca-Chinese were not treated too favourably by the Portuguese...it is generally true that Chinese ships tended to avoid Malacca after 1511, sailing to other ports instead. Presumably these ports were mainly on the east coast of the Malayan peninsula and on Sumatra. Johore, in the deep south of the peninsula, was another place where many Chinese went... After 1511, many Chinese who were Muslims sided with other Islamic traders against the Portuguese; according to The Malay Annals of Semarang and Cerbon, Chinese settlers living on northern Java even became involved in counter-attacks on Malacca. Javanese vessels were indeed sent out but suffered a disastrous defeat. Demak and Japara alone lost more than seventy sail.
- Peter Borschberg (2004). Iberians in the Singapore-Melaka Area and Adjacent Regions (16th to 18th Century). Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 12–. ISBN 978-3-447-05107-1.
Still others withdrew to continue business with the Javanese, Malays and Gujaratis...When the Islamic world considered counter-attacks against Portuguese Malacca, some Chinese residents may have provided ships and capital. These Chinese had their roots either in Fujian, or else may have been of Muslim descent. This group may have consisted of small factions that fled Champa after the crisis of 1471.
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