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Xi sends greetings to Malaysia’s new king

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President Xi Jinping has sent a congratulatory message to Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, who was sworn in as Malaysia’s 17th king in a ceremony at the national palace in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

In his message to Malaysia’s new king on Wednesday, Xi said that China and Malaysia are friendly neighbors across the sea and enjoy a time-honored friendship.

Since they established diplomatic ties in 1974, the two countries have been adhering to mutual respect, equality, mutual benefit and win-win cooperation, Xi said. Bilateral ties have maintained a sound momentum of development with significant achievements through their cooperation in various fields, he added.

Xi recalled that in 2023, he and Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim reached an important consensus on jointly building a China-Malaysia community with a shared future, which, he said, drew a new blueprint for the development of bilateral relations in the new era.

Noting this year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the China-Malaysia Year of Friendly Exchanges, and Malaysia will take over as the country coordinator of China-ASEAN relations, Xi said the development of China-Malaysia ties will see new opportunities.

Xi expressed his readiness to conduct friendly exchanges with Sultan Ibrahim and push the building of the China-Malaysia community with a shared future for new progress in order to bring more benefits to the people from both countries and make greater contributions to regional prosperity and stability.

Wearing royal blue ceremonial attire, the 65-year-old on Wednesday took the oath of office in a traditional ceremony.

“With this oath, I solemnly and truly profess to be faithful, to rule fairly for Malaysia in accordance with the laws and the constitution,” Sultan Ibrahim said during a nationally televised event.

Sultan Ibrahim’s reign comes at a time when the Southeast Asian nation is pushing for economic reforms. He will serve as the country’s head of state for the next five years under a unique rotating monarchy system.

The king traditionally plays a ceremonial role in Malaysia but has in recent years featured prominently in the country’s political landscape.

In addition to overseeing major political appointments, the king serves as the official head of Islam in the Muslim-majority country and commander-in-chief of its armed forces.

Analysts said the newly-crowned king is expected to continue to play the role of stabilizing the country’s politics.

Awang Azman Awang Pawi, associate professor at the Academy of Malay Studies at the University of Malaya, said Sultan Ibrahim may have a “more prominent” role in the country’s governance, noting the king aims to prioritize political stability and discourage any attempts to overthrow the government.

In a November 2023 interview with Singapore daily The Straits Times, Sultan Ibrahim vowed to stamp out corruption, emphasizing that a stable government should have consistent and sustainable policies.

“The new king is also seen as uncompromising toward those who try to create disharmony, particularly those playing on ethnic and religious issues for political support,” Awang Azman told China Daily.

Serina Abdul Rahman, lecturer on Southeast Asian studies at the National University of Singapore, said the “consistent threats from the opposition” may “push the king to step in”.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy. The nine state monarchs rotate five-year terms as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (the paramount ruler). These state monarchs make up the Conference of Rulers and in October 2023 they elected Sultan Ibrahim as the next king.

Sultan Ibrahim hails from a state which was in the news lately after Singapore and Malaysia signed an agreement that aims to develop Johor as a special economic zone.

Tan Wee Tiam, a Johor-based property consultant, expects Sultan Ibrahim to remain a “powerful enabler” who will ensure close cooperation between the two neighbors.

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