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BEIJING: Malaysia has invited China’s President Xi Jingping to visit, its ambassador to Beijing said on Friday, as the Southeast Asian country also seeks to boost the number of Chinese tourists to five million a year to fuel economic growth.

China and Malaysia will mark the 50th anniversary of their bilateral diplomatic relations next year, and Malaysia recently announced tourists from China would be able to travel visa free for 30 days, a move mirroring Thailand.

Government data showed Malaysia welcomed 498,540 Chinese tourists in the six months to June this year, a figure almost a third of pre-pandemic levels. In comparison, Thailand said it expected 3.4-3.5 million visitors from China this year.

“We see that we have a big capacity to receive tourists,” Ambassador Norman Muhamad said at an event at the Malaysian embassy in Beijing, adding that the goal is not “far-fetched” even if it may take more than a couple of years to achieve.

Malaysia to allow visa-free entry to Chinese, Indian nationals from Dec. 1

“Since we are seeking more investment from China, this visa-free travel to Malaysia will also help Chinese investors to come to Malaysia to find opportunities,” he added.

Malaysia’s economic growth is expected to meet the government’s target of 4% this year, driven in part by stronger tourism.

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has also invited China’s President Xi Jinping to visit the country, Norman said. “We are hoping that President Xi will consent to visiting Malaysia,” he added.

Earlier this week, China’s foreign minister Wang Yi was seen holding hands with his Malaysian counterpart Zambry Abdul Kadir in New York, photos released by the Chinese foreign ministry show.

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