Dr. Mahathir Mohamad says Malaysia supports China’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) although Putrajaya does not promote the ideologies of Beijing.

The Prime Minister also said Malaysia would continue to foster good ties with China as long as there are trade opportunities from the relationship, adding that “rich countries make good markets”.

“As much as we don’t like Western influence in our strategies and our schools, we don’t want other countries to have an undue influence over our young people,” he said at an event here today.

His comments follow the controversy stirred by the distribution of a comic book on the BRI at schools in Penang.

The comic book, titled “Belt & Road Initiative for Win Winism”, was published by a company headed by former DAP member Hew Kuan Yau.

Hew has since labelled the controversy as a way for Putrajaya to win the support of Malay voters ahead of the Tanjung Piai by-election. The Education Ministry meanwhile denied giving approval for the distribution of the comic book at secondary and vernacular schools.

It has also instructed state and district education offices to ensure that schools do not accept or distribute the book from any supplier. Mahathir said the youth should understand the policies and strategies of the country before learning about those of other countries.

“I believe that China will wield a great influence over the world in the future,” he added.

“But for the moment, it is not for us to promote Chinese ideas and ideologies, but to find out how we can benefit from them.” He also said the government would need to study the BRI in full before offering its complete support.

“In Malaysia, there are people of many different races, and racial feelings are still dominant. “We don’t want our people to think that after being influenced by the West, we have now changed and become influenced by China,” he said.