MELBOURNE: Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin is calling for investors to take advantage of Malaysia's Chinese diaspora and huge halal industry to penetrate China's huge economic market.
"Malaysia's strength lies in its diversity. As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, the Malaysian business community is able to capitalise on a wider range of opportunities in China," said Muhyiddin at the 4th World Chinese Economic Forum here Monday.
He said Malaysia was blessed in the form of its substantial Chinese community, where some 24% or seven million of Malaysians are ethnic Chinese.
"Malaysia is the only country outside China with a complete Mandarin education system available to its population from pre-school right up to university. There are also many other non-Chinese background Malaysians who study in Mandarin schools," he said.
As such, he said besides the ability to converse and understand, there are many extensive business connections in trade and investment as a result of the substantial Chinese community.
This, he said, translated to good links with the Chinese world of some 50 million overseas Chinese and over 1.3 billion Chinese nationals.
Muhyiddin said the Malaysian business community could leverage on that and explore the untapped Chinese hinterland markets, especially in tourism and halal industries.
Last year, Malaysia's export value for Halal products reached RM35.4bil or 5.1% of its total global exports.
"I believe that the country's huge halal industry is able to cater to the 20 million Muslims in China," he said.
He said strategic alliances with provinces such as Xinjiang, Gansu and Ningxia will also allow Malaysia to not only penetrate these big halal markets but also those in Muslim-majority countries neighbouring China.
"We should all also look beyond China's tier one cities. Today, most of China's cosmopolises, including that of Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are maturing fast,” he said.
On the other hand, he said there are more than 80 cities in China with a population of at least a million people. With China's fiscal desentralisation and development policies, he said its second tier and third-tier cities were experiencing the spillover effects now.
"These cities will surely present greater business opportunities with good purchasing power," he said.
On the local front, he said Malaysia also played host to Chinese business leaders from China, Thailand, Indonesia, USA, Singapore Philippines, Australia and many other parts of the world.
"They came to Malaysia do business not only with the Malaysian Chinese, but with all Malaysians that understand Chinese business ethics and values," he said.
He said many of these businesses use Malaysia as a platform to launch their products and services into other English speaking markets, India and the Middle East because of Malaysia's multilingual population and cultural connections with many parts of the world.
According to him, the government's transformation agenda has made Malaysia a much better market to trade with and invest in than ever before.
"As we climb up the value chain and technological ladder, Malaysia invites investors from all places, especially the Chinese business community around the world, to take advantage of our transformation process as a springboard to other, bigger markets," he said.
At the same conference, Muhyiddin was also conferred the WCEF Patron's Special Leadership Award.