Malaysia is more advanced than China

Malaysia shows mainland Chinese the red card

A test-tube city that primarily attracts the Chinese threatens to become a ruin. The Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad does not want any enclaves with mainland Chinese in his country. But it is also about the economic interests of the Sultan of Johor.

In Malaysia one of the largest real estate projects, which is to create living space for 700,000 people, is on the brink. With Forest City, as the venture is called, a test-tube city would be built near the coast on the southernmost tip of Malaysia in the state of Johor, which could even compete with Singapore in terms of its skyline. The project costs for this amount to around $ 100 billion. But now there are problems.

Already the third broadside against China

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir intervened on Monday and declared that it was unacceptable that this city should be populated almost exclusively by foreigners. The projected apartments are far too expensive for locals. His intervention has, among other things, the following specific reason: Around 70% of the pre-sales were made by mainland Chinese. The new government and the local population fear that their homeland will be sold out. Mahathir announced that no residence permits and visas would be issued as a result.

Since the change of government in Putrajaya and most of the member states, this is the third setback for Chinese investors who have tried to gain a foothold in Malaysia with grandiose projects in recent years. Recently, on the occasion of his visit to Beijing, Mahathir ordered the suspension of a railway line between the east and west coasts of the country. In addition, two gas pipeline projects were halted. Both of them focused on financing problems and fundamental questions about the sense and benefit for Malaysia. Now there is a new element: Malaysia is defending itself against the sale of land and against foreign infiltration from China. The problem is that the work on all projects is quite advanced.

The stop signal expresses a slogan that is increasingly making the rounds even in these latitudes: “Malaysia first”. The Chinese developer Country Garden Holdings is initially affected. Its futuristic project in a tropical zone, which is also at the gates of the cosmopolitan city of Singapore, has attracted countless Chinese since it began marketing four years ago. Mainland Chinese didn't just discover travel. They also buy like crazy.

Refuge for old age and for escape funds

Many see it as just a speculative deal, at best the possibility of buying a small second home in the south from around US $ 100,000. Or they tread a path to unsuspectingly move money out of the country. Corresponding restrictions imposed by the Chinese government from 2016 onwards were visibly bypassed with straw men. If Singapore was too expensive for you, you could easily get a train north of it, across the strait.

However, it is not just the armies of future residents from China that have been causing unrest in Johor for some time. Thousands of Chinese construction workers who live on the construction sites in Forest City also irritated many people here. Their presence and the spectrum of a Chinese enclave on the coast, which is displacing the traditional way of life and robbing local fishermen of their livelihood, may have contributed significantly to the victory of the opposition on the occasion of the May 9 elections. Chinese investors are nowhere popular among the population in Southeast Asia.

Point against the Sultan of Johor

It is still uncertain how the "forest city" surrounded by palm oil plantations will continue; Should the Malaysian government actually limit the relevant residence permits or introduce minimum quotas for its own citizens, the demand for living space will inevitably fall - and so will the prices. And the huge project is likely to be resized. Presumably the latter is precisely the intention of the intervention.

In any case, it is once again expressed that Mahathir wants to redefine relations with China, which his predecessor, Najib Razak, vigorously developed. In this regard, “Malaysia first” also means, in particular, “less China”.

The now threatened building ruins in the south of the peninsula will not only cause long faces for the Chinese developer. A big local fish is also affected: Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar. Alongside the member state, the Sultan of Johor is the second beneficiary of the gigantic project that was to turn swamps, sand and mangroves into billions.

There is no good understanding between the royals, who rest on their titles, thrones and tantièmen, and the Mahathir. It is quite conceivable that there will still be a power struggle over who is in charge in the Sultanate of Johor.