KUALA LUMPUR: The Chinese developer of a mega-project in Johor is trying to dampen fears sparked by China’s rising visibility in Malaysia.
Forest City, which has seen thousands of flats sold since construction began exactly a year ago, has been the subject of some alarm in the country as potential buyers from mainland China flock to the Iskandar Malaysia zone.
Leaders such as former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad have warned that the development will amount to a “foreign enclave”, while others say the project may weaken property prices.
In a Financial Times report today, though, developer Country Garden said it would work on expanding its client base to include buyers from Southeast Asia, India and the Middle East. About 70% of buyers so far have come from mainland China.
The report quoted Country Garden chief strategy officer Runze Yu as saying that the Chinese cared about the local community and environment.
“In Forest City we are doing our best to provide quality… where we care about the local community and environment,” he said.
Of late, Malaysia and China have seen a strengthening of ties, with Chinese investors funding the expansion of a port in Malacca, and plans for a high-speed rail connection from Kunming through Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to Singapore in the pipeline.
Last November, the two countries signed 14 agreements worth RM144 billion, a historic achievement for both nations.
These, along with the massive Forest City project, show “Southeast Asia being drawn ever more deeply into Beijing’s economic embrace”, the FT report said.
Mahathir had echoed this view, warning of an influx of foreigners to Forest City who would be entitled to become citizens if they stayed long enough.
Nestled on four artificial islands, Forest City will house 700,000 people on an area four times the size of New York’s Central Park.
It will have office towers, parks, hotels, shopping malls and an international school, all draped in greenery. -FMT