A raft of high-level visits helps promote already healthy trade and relations Malaysia is engaged in a love affair with all things Chinese. Starting with the prime minister and moving down through business tycoons, community leaders, tradesmen's guilds and even school clubs, everyone in Malaysia, it seems, is extolling the virtues of mainland China - its culture, history, civilisation and recent rise to prominence on the world stage. The latest big day in the budding romance came on Sunday when the two countries celebrated the 30th anniversary of the normalisation of relations. The highlight was a 300-strong Shanghai troupe performing on the opening night of the Chinese drama the Dance of the Dynasties, to a packed audience including guest of honour Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and Chinese Vice-Minister for Culture Meng Xiaosi. Sunday also saw Ms Meng ride in a replica of a 12th-century junk up river to Malaysia's historical city of Melaka to re-enact the voyage of China's famous admiral Zheng He. About 10,000 people watched the procession, which also carried Chinese and Malays dressed in traditional costumes. Ms Meng and newly appointed Deputy Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak - whose father was the first Asean leader to meet Mao Zedong in 1974 and normalise relations - signed an agreement on cultural co-operation. Dozens of Malaysian-Chinese politicians, community leaders and business tycoons marked the anniversary by publicly affirming total support for Beijing's 'one China' policy and condemning Taiwan for its 'futile' dream of independence. Both countries have labelled this year as Malaysia China Friendship Year 2004. A highlight is the official visit of President Hu Jintao in May. Mutually beneficial trade and business links and domestic political considerations are behind the blooming relationship. Growing trade is a key consideration. Malaysia is China's largest trading partner among Asean countries and the seventh globally. China is Malaysia's fourth largest trading partner. The two countries expect bilateral trade to grow from US$18 billion last year. Hu Zhengyue, China's ambassador in Kuala Lumpur, said Beijing had proposed an 11-point plan to expand their relationship in the arenas of business, education, science, culture and sports. 'Malaysia is very receptive ... our ultimate aim is to unite the two peoples together in friendship,' he said. Observers say China values the moderate Muslim leadership and the presence of a large and vibrant overseas Chinese community - both as a market and a source of knowledge, investment and technology. Tourism is another vital consideration for Malaysia with close to 550,000 Chinese tourists visiting Malaysia in 2002. Domestic political considerations are leading the ruling National Front coalition government to support the 'love China' drive. About four million ethnic Chinese voters backed the coalition in the 1999 general election, but that support could crumble in the next poll which is expected to be called soon. A recent semi-government poll showed that 60 per cent of young Chinese voters would either vote opposition or not vote at all, with many saying they felt alienated by the government's affirmative action policies which benefit ethnic Malays.