Malaysia Bans China Belt & Road Comic for Promoting Communism

(Bloomberg) --

Malaysia has banned a local comic book about China’s Belt & Road project, citing threats to public peace and security.

The book, featuring Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and President Xi Jinping shaking hands on the cover, “promotes communism and socialism,” Malaysia’s Home Ministry said in a statement. It attempts to evoke sympathy toward communists and could sow doubt and confusion among readers, it added.

Anyone caught flouting the ban could face up to three years in prison or a 20,000 ringgit ($4,776) fine, or both. A five-member team from the ministry seized 13 copies from a comic museum in Penang state on Thursday, Bernama reported. Police have recorded a statement from the comic book’s author.

The Prime Minister’s Office last Friday acknowledged the book “Belt & Road Initiative for Win-Winism” had gone viral on social media, and disavowed any links to it. The Education Ministry has similarly denied approving the book’s circulation in schools.

The issue underscores the tightrope that Mahathir’s government must walk in appeasing China to get investments, while not appearing to sell out to their constituents. China is Malaysia’s largest trading partner, and the Southeast Asian country earlier this month announced it was forming a special investment channel with China to boost trade.

“I believe that China will wield a great influence over the whole world in the future but for the moment, it is not for us to promote Chinese ideas and Chinese ideologies, but to find out how we can benefit from that,” Mahathir said in a forum earlier this week.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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