Mahathir Mohamad, the nonagenarian leader of Pakatan Harapan, the coalition of Malaysian opposition parties, led his party to a stunning victory in the general election last week.
The election was a typical exercise of democratic principles with defeat and victory being the two sides of the same coin. However, the election brought to the fore a familiar ring that is increasingly becoming a pattern across elections in the world: the China factor.
Mahathir Mohamad has made China a key theme of his campaign during the run up to the elections. He was riding a wave of people’s anger over Chinese investments in the country and has accused the former Prime Minister Najib Razak of selling out to China following a string of trade deals that put Malaysia at a massive economic disadvantage.
He criticized the bilateral deals for imposing an unsustainable debt burden on the country and pointed out that the major chunk of the benefits from the deals flow in only one direction: China.
Popular resentment and suspicion has been simmering in Malaysia towards China for some time over perceptions that China is using investments as a cover to expand its military and political influence in the region. And the anger became a rallying point during the elections that brought the ruling party a crumbling defeat.[Source]