Open to ideas: Dr Huang (centre) listening to Country Garden Pacificview Sdn Bhd chief strategy officer Dr Yu Runze (right) during a visit to the Forest City project in Johor Baru.
China's top representative in Malaysia has made waves in a way that has earned much respect albeit with raised eyebrows at times
DR Huang Huikang (pic) is no ordinary ambassador. This Chinese envoy has become one of the most-watched diplomats in Malaysia.
As China’s ambassador to Malaysia, he represents his country in important government and political functions here and works hard to promote bilateral ties, trade and investment between the two nations.
Like his predecessors, he mingles well with local Chinese leaders, praising the community for its sacrifices and devotion made over the decades in the development of Chinese education in Malaysia.
But unlike his low-key predecessors, this diplomat hands out cash donations to Chinese schools in a high-profile manner and celebrates Chinese New Year with locals.
The 62-year-old doctorate holder in international law and former law professor, who began his posting here in January 2014, has the poise of an envoy but stands out among his peers with his unconventional mannerism. While other ambassadors are usually more measured in their statements, he does not hesitate to make comments that may raise anxiety.
At official functions, Dr Huang is addressed as “ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary” – an ambassador’s official title in full. This may be no exaggeration.
Having served as vice mayor of Tangshan in Hebei province and completed stints as deputy consul-general in New York and minister counsellor-cum-deputy chief at China’s embassy in Ottawa, Dr Huang is a seasoned spokesman for China.
Late last year, he was re-elected as a member of the International Law Commission at the United Nations.
Here are snapshots of Dr Huang:
Role in vast investments
The role played by Dr Huang in bringing in large Chinese investments has put him in good stead.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit here in 2015 was crucial to Malaysia and the Middle Kingdom.
When Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak visited China in November last year, Dr Huang was also seen in Beijing. The trip resulted in the signing of deals and investments totalling RM144bil.
Of late, there has been quite a number of visits by China’s central departments, provinces and cities here to promote trade and forge closer ties.
The influence of Dr Huang is pervasive.
When China’s investments in Malaysia came under attack by some opposition politicians, he crafted a strongly-worded statement to these unnamed politicians, explaining how China could help the local economy and its people. But to these naysayers, China is stealing jobs, eating into the economic pie and depriving opportunities to small and medium businesses.
Once, during a nationwide tour of Malaysia, he cautioned that “slander, vilification and obstruction” could dampen the enthusiasm of Chinese firms.
Chinese investments in Malaysia
With investments from China coming to Malaysia in a never-seen-before scale, particularly under China’s Belt and Road initiative, Dr Huang has hinted that Malaysia should not take all this for granted.
Chinese enterprises are encouraged to venture into Malaysia because of the close ties between the two countries, he said.
Dr Huang spoke of how China would share the benefits from its economic growth with Malaysia, citing technology transfer and job creation.
Malaysian industries could become world class if they adopt advanced technology, he said.
Though not an economist, he predicted that the value ofthe Ringgit would rise in line with the increased foreign trade and foreign reserves.
To a large extent, Dr Huang’s remarks reflected China’s confidence as a superpower and its responsibilities on the global stage.
Even DAP – after criticising MCA for acting like “China’s agent” with the setting up of the Belt and Road Centre and MCA People’s Republic of China (PRC) Affairs Committee – paid Dr Huang a courtesy call in February.
And Dr Huang, ever the gracious, told the delegation that bilateral cooperation transcended political parties and race.
In the limelight
Dr Huang has gained substantial coverage in the Malaysian media, particularly in the Chinese dailies.
Last year, Dr Huang contributed RM40,000 to eight SJK (C) schools in Sembrong, Johor. Early this year, he gave RM100,000 to five schools in Nilai and Seremban, and another RM200,000 to 10 Chinese primary schools and one secondary school in Raub, Pahang.
While the recipients were grateful to him and possibly China, some saw this gesture as China flexing its financial muscle.
As usual, Dr Huang took it in his stride. He said the embassy would continue to support the development of Chinese education here.
More recently, he went on a high-profile trip within peninsular Malaysia to visit projects with Chinese investments, covering Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Pahang, Kedah, Malacca and Johor.
His visits were splashed across the Chinese dailies. The spotlight trained on Dr Huang has led to much feedback.
A Chinese community leader told Sunday Star: “He is grabbing so much limelight, even more than our own ministers.”
And a senior government official felt that it was “as though he is a politician on a campaign trail seeking re-election, or attempting to claim credit for the projects.”
He did a Chinatown walkabout a day before the planned “Red Shirt” rally in September 2015 when a group led by Datuk Seri Jamal Yunos threatened a riot at the predominantly-Chinese trading area in Kuala Lumpur.
Accompanied by his wife, Dr Huang distributed mooncakes to the traders for the Mid-Autumn Festival celebration.
He told the media that China was against anyone resorting to violence to disrupt public order and that he would not stand idle if the interests of China’s citizens and firms were undermined. To him, it would be “a waste” if the harmony among the races in the area was jeopardised. However, his remarks were seen by some as an interference in Malaysia’s domestic affairs.
With all his fascinating activities and remarks, the diary of this diplomat will continue to come under the public microscope in the days to come.
Source: The Star by Tho Xin Yi