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KUALA LUMPUR, May 20 (Bernama) -- Malaysia and the People's Republic of China have achieved significant milestones in the half-century of diplomatic relations, said Deputy Communications Minister Teo Nie Ching.

She said the relationship between the two nations over the decades have witnessed remarkable advancements, particularly in trade and industry.

"Malaysia holds its international relationships in the highest regard, recognising that our trade partners play an important role in the development and growth of Malaysia. We are committed to fostering robust trade relations and encouraging foreign investments that enhance the prosperity and well-being of our people," she said.

She said this in her speech at the China Entrepreneurs Association in Malaysia’S (PUCM) 9th Anniversary and Malaysia-China 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner, here tonight.

Teo said the bilateral trade volume surpassed US$190 billion (about RM890.2 billion), a 950-fold increase since 1974, as Malaysia was the first founding member of ASEAN to establish diplomatic ties with China on May 31, 1974, with bilateral trade volume less than US$200 million (about RM937 million).

She said the surge in bilateral trade to comprehensive, pragmatic cooperation and the mutual visa exemption policy, which has led to an average monthly increase of over 250,000 Chinese tourists to Malaysia.

"Following the implementation of the mutual visa exemption, the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia has significantly increased. In fact, with 5.8 million tourists in the first quarter of 2024, we have witnessed a remarkable growth of 32.5 percent compared to the 4.3 million tourists during the same period last year," she added.

She also said Malaysia will be opening the use of autogate facilities for immigration clearance starting June 1 to further facilitate tourist visits to Malaysia and China is among the 10 countries included in this initiative for a smoother and more efficient immigration process for visitors from China. 

Teo also highlighted Malaysia’s economic performance, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth accelerating to 4.2 per cent in the first quarter of 2024, surpassing earlier forecasts.

"The Malaysian government is optimistic about the direction of the economy this year, expecting the full-year growth to be between 4-5 per cent," she said.