PUTRAJAYA: In an effort to encourage more tourists from China to visit Malaysia, the Government will extend the free-visa facility to those travelling in groups of at least two, instead of a larger party, says Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.

Apart from the move, which will be implemented as soon as possible, Malaysia will also start e-visa facilities for Chinese tourists beginning January.

“We hope through these efforts the number of Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia will see a sharp increase,” the Prime Minister said yesterday at a joint press conference with Li Keqiang, who was on his first visit to Malaysia as China’s premier.

He had over the weekend attended the related summits held concurrently with the 27th Asean Summit in Kuala Lumpur.

Describing Putrajaya-Beijing relations as at their highest level, Najib said both countries had set their sights on pushing their bilateral ties further not only in the economic sector but also through tourism, education and international affairs.

Looking good: Li inspecting the guard of honour from the Rejimen 1 Batalion Askar Melayu at an official welcoming ceremony during his visit in Putrajaya.— Bernama

Malaysia, said Najib, took note of China’s interest to participate in the high-speed rail project between KL and Singapore, adding that this would be decided through an international tender process.

“We are also committed to award the Johor Baru-Gemas double-track project to a consortium of Chinese companies,” he added.

Najib said Malaysia was mindful that it had set a bilateral trade target to the level of US$160bil (RM687bil).

“It is a high target and we have to redouble our efforts to achieve this ambitious goal,” he said.

He added that efforts were being made to encourage Chinese businessmen to invest in the Port of Malacca and in view of the special relationship between the state and Guangdong, both countries were looking at having direct flights.

Malaysia and China also discussed conducting trade in their respective currencies. Currently, only about 2.5% of the total trade is in ringgit or renminbi.

Li, he added, had also been informed that the Xiamen University Malaysia Campus in Salak Tinggi, Sepang, the first overseas branch set up by a well-known Chinese university, would be ready to receive students in February.

“We also agreed to work together on international issues, especially to combat terrorism and violent extremism,” Najib said.

Li announced that China would grant an additional 150 government scholarships to Malaysian students in the next three years.

He added that his government would encourage more Chinese students to study at the Xiamen University Malaysia branch.

“I’m sure these students will continue the legacy of Admiral Zheng He to bolster peace and friendship between both countries,” he said, adding that he appreciated the easing of visa arrangement extended to Chinese tourists.

The diplomat-cum-explorer Zheng He, who made five expeditions to Malacca during the Ming Dynasty in the 14th century, also notably worked on resolving differences and disputes.

Later, at the Malaysia-China High-Level Economic Forum in Kuala Lumpur, Li, too, emphasised that terrorism had nothing to do with religion nor ethnic groups.

“Terrorism is an act against humanity. And we are ready to stand together to fight terrorism of all forms,” he vowed.

Li said China would also invest more in Malaysia’s treasury bonds to help stabilise the financial market.

“The move is imperative as inflation is peaking and currency depreciating,” he noted.

At the press conference earlier, Li also touched on lighter subjects, including the taste of durian.

“The first bite was difficult, second bite memorable while the third was unforgettable.”

Li, who went to the Admiral Zheng He Museum and the Baba Nyonya Museum during his visit to Malacca on Sunday, said he was delighted by the fusion of Chinese and Malay cultures.