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Malaysia's 'middle power' ambition faces rivals in own backyard

New PM Anwar Ibrahim seeks opportunity in U.S.-China rivalry but competition abounds

A factory of Malaysian national automaker Proton. Vietnamese rival VinFast has moved ahead in electric-vehicle production.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Malaysia's pursuit of economic growth as a middle power between China and the U.S. is shaping up to be a test for new Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim as other Southeast Asian countries position themselves as cheap alternatives for manufacturing.

Malaysia has made markets of both the U.S. and China. Total exports for the 10 months through October totaled 1.29 trillion ringgit ($295 billion), up 29% from the same period last year.

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