KOTA KINABALU: Sabah looks forward to renewing and sustaining cooperation with  China in three crucial areas namely tourism, human capital development and harnessing  natural resources. 

Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Hajiji Haji Noor said Sabah was fortunate to be  both a beneficiary and an active participant in the fruitful relationship between Malaysia  and China that was established nearly half a century ago.  

“The large volume of our commodity exports from Sabah to China and the large number  of Chinese tourists who came to visit Sabah before the pandemic is a testament to this,”  he said at the 48th Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations Between  Malaysia and China and 10th Anniversary Celebration cum Installation of the Executive  Committee of Malaysia – China Friendship Association Sabah at Kian Kok Middle School  here on Saturday. 

The Chief Minister’s speech was delivered by Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Seri Panglima  Dr Jeffrey Kitingan. 

According to him, Malaysia and China’s close diplomatic ties established 48 years ago  were meaningful given that it took real courage for both countries to step forward and  make the historic step.  

“But we have seen the fruits of this bold move. China is now Malaysia’s largest trading  partner, and Malaysia ranks near the top of China’s trading partners in Southeast Asia,”  he said. 

“Looking ahead, I think there are at least three areas where the crucial cooperation  between China and Sabah could be renewed and hopefully sustained. The first is, not  surprisingly, in tourism. Both Sabah and China are endowed with natural beauty and rich  cultures.  

“We should open up more direct flights and cruise lines to enable our people to visit. The  pandemic has halted the momentum for increased tourism. When China eventually opens  its border in the near future, we hope to see more visitors from China and vice-versa.  

“We look forward to welcoming back the Chinese tourists to Sabah,” he said.

Hajiji said the second area was in capacity building and in particular human resources.  

“Many Sabah students and technical personnel look forward to more opportunities and  scholarships for studying in China’s universities and training institutes. We also welcome  China’s students and technical personnel to study in our universities and training  institutes.  

“In fact, Xiamen University has already built a large campus in Malaysia, and we welcome  more China universities and training institutes to set up their branch campuses here in  Sabah. By taking part in the educational experience of both countries, we will see better  integration and closer cooperation in many areas,” he said. 

As for the third area of cooperation, he said it should not only be about how to harness  natural resources for short-term development.  

“It should instead be an opportunity for all of us to work together in a greener fashion, of  preserving our natural heritage such that we do not further induce climate change on the  one hand, and still be able to undertake much needed developments that could improve  the sustainable livelihoods of our people,” he said.  

Commending the Malaysia – China Friendship Association Sabah, the Chief Minister said  it was heartening to note that the association has been working tirelessly to complement  the efforts of Malaysia and China, including the Sabah State Government to enhance the  relations between Sabah and China, especially at the grassroots level.  

“The various cultural, educational and commercial exchange activities undertaken by the  association involving both Sabah and China, spoke volumes for the association’s  important role in the Sabah-China link. I hope this significant bridging role will continue,”  he said. 

Hajiji hoped the association will continue to work closely with the Sabah State  Government to enhance bilateral relations.