Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) and Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences (SASS) Officially inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in early December, 2019 at Sungai Long Campus, in a bid to strengthen Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) Cooperation.

UTAR President Prof Dr Ewe Hong Tat and SASS Vice President Prof Zhu Guohong signed the MOU while the signing was witnessed by UTAR Division of Community and International Networking Director Associate Prof Dr Lai Soon Onn and SASS Prof Xu Qingquan.

In his remarks, Ewe gave a brief introduction on UTAR. “In order to encourage more research works, the University has set up 32 Research Centres. One of the centres is called the Belt & Road Strategic Research Centre. We also have other centres which are related to social science,” he said.

He mentioned that research is important in the development drive of a nation and explained the past collaborations that the University had done to enhance the staff and students’ learning experience.

He also mentioned that the University always encourages the students to go abroad so that they could enrich themselves and gain a more sophisticated understanding of the cultural differences.

On the other hand, Zhu explained that SASS is China’s oldest institution for the humanities and social sciences. Highlighting the importance of building a mutual understanding, he hoped that researchers from both institutions could have better communication. He believed that there are many areas to collaborate with UTAR.

He also took the opportunity to extend an invitation to UTAR staff and students to visit SASS.

The MoU signing ceremony was then followed by presentations and discussion among the delegates with the purpose to enhance both sides’ understanding. In her presentation, Prof Cheng provided a brief introduction about BRSRC, stating that the centre was just established in 2018 and it focused more on the area of economic development. Sharing her research study, she mentioned that it was important to promote Belt & Road Initiative (BRI) to people who do not know the initiative instead of those who know well.

SASS Institute of International Relations Assistant Research Professor Zhang Qun, on the other hand, shared an analysis based on the five-connectivity framework in her presentation which focused on the BRI’s development in the ASEAN countries.

She also talked about the challenges of implementing BRI and illustrated the pessimistic and optimistic scenario for future BRI prospects.

Moreover, UTAR MBA/MBA (Corporate Governance) Programmes head Dr Ng Kar Yee shared her research study which focused on public understanding and perception toward the BRI project in Malaysia.

She presented the data collected from 200 respondents, explaining that 50 per cent of the respondents have never heard about BRI before and most of them were aged 21 to 30.

“It shows a very contrast result because, in another 50 per cent of the respondents who heard about BRI, the majority of them were undergraduates,” she said.

In his presentation, SASS Institute of World Economy researcher Dr Zhou Dapeng talked about the status, problems and suggestions on China-Malaysia economic and trade cooperation.

According to him, Malaysia was the first ASEAN Country to establish diplomatic relations with China and invite China to join the “10+1” cooperation mechanism.

He talked about the bilateral trade and investment between the two countries, saying that China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner for 10 conservative years and the largest sources of foreign investment in manufacturing for three consecutive years.

He pointed out the problems need to be settled, commenting that the operating methods of Chinese funded enterprises need to be improved.

“Many large Chinese companies are used to sourcing raw materials from their home country. Some Malaysian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) complain about too few opportunities to participate in cooperation,” he explained.

When talking about the suggestions, he said, “We should look objectively at the scepticism and negative views of some Malaysian on the BRI. Let’s work together to make China-Malaysia’s cooperation in the Belt & Road Construction become a model for China-ASEAN development in the economic and trade area.”