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Malaysia-China industrial park to give new impetus for bilateral ties

Mohd Shukri bin Arifin, 40, who is responsible for the last working procedure on the metalworking production line of Alliance Steel, has little idea what the wire rods or the metal bars are used for. But he knows he is working for the biggest iron works in Malaysia, and perhaps one of the most advanced in Southeast Asia.

His job-sorting out defective products that are too short and clipping those that are too long-is not complicated, but it is the time the man from Malaysia's eastern Pahang state has worked in a modern factory.

When asked about why he chose to work for Alliance Steel, the first factory to start its manufacturing operation in the 3,000 acre Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park (MCKIP), Shukri highlighted higher wages-almost 20 percent more than his previous job-dormitories equipped with entertainment and gym facilities and transportation allowances, and, more importantly, training opportunities that enabled him to operate machines.

Four months into his job, he already knows all the basics and has begun to instruct his fellow workers, thanks to a training tour of some 150 workers to China during which he was shown around a modern steelworks in Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.

Shukri is not the only one from Pahang who came to work for the steelworks. Thanks to a job fair organized last year, more than 300 local people landed jobs in the factory.

When the steelworks goes into full operation in June this year, it is estimated that more than 4,000 jobs will be created, 70 percent of which will be for Malaysian citizens, said Hu Jiulin, deputy project commander of Alliance Steel Malaysia Sdn Bhd.

Hu added that the company received more than 4,000 job applications via the job fair and noted that as many as 10,000 jobs will be generated once all related factories of Alliance Steel start their business.

Malaysia's economic weight has traditionally been scattered along the west coast of peninsular Malaysia, with little or no heavy industries in the east coast. But expectations are high for MCKIP to become a catalyst to drive economic growth in this area.

Alliance Steel has an annual production capacity of more than 3.5 million tons of steel products. According to Hu, the factory will not only be able to meet the bulk demand of the Malaysian market, but also can accommodate the Southeast Asian market, thanks to a surge in infrastructure development in the region.

Hu said the company also invested a huge sum of money in green technology and environmentally friendly production techniques, with zero waste water discharged outside. The factory, with its conservation facilities, can even generate more than 90 percent of its needed electricity.

"We are here for long-term development," said Hu, showing his name-card, which is inscribed with "In Malaysia, For Malaysia".

Aside from Alliance Steel, many other projects in the park are also expected to put a spark into the fire that will make a difference. Ma Zhengguo, a managing director of MCKIP, said that local Malaysian businesses have benefited even in the construction phase, thanks to a large proportion of materials procured locally.

Moreover, Ma said MCKIP's strong relationship with the Kuantan Port, a strategic shipping port located 10 km away, makes the industrial park an attractive destination for businesses.

Hong Kong's NewOcean Energy Holdings Ltd announced plans to set up an oil refinery and related sea terminal facilities at the Kuantan Port for the export and sale of petroleum products last year, underscoring ever increasing investment interest from outside of the Chinese mainland.

In fact, the participation of the Chinese side not only brought in capital and new technologies, but also successful experience.

Ye Jingtao, deputy manager of the Project II Department under the Beibu Gulf Holding (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd, said it is more important for the Malaysian side to see the feasibility of some projects and let them believe such projects can work, thus building mutual trust.