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Malaysia and China: The new 'lips and teeth' duo

Ambassador quotes Mao to describe close -- some might say too close -- relations

Construction workers at the site of the China-backed East Coast Rail Link in Kuantan, Malaysia (Photo by CK Tan)

KUALA LUMPUR -- China and Malaysia are closer than they have ever been in over four decades of diplomatic relations. And if remarks by the outgoing Chinese ambassador are anything to go by, this may be only the beginning -- much to the discomfort of certain critics.

"The Sino-Malaysian relationship should move up over the next 40 years to reach mutual dependency, like lips and teeth," Huang Huikang, former Chinese ambassador said in a recent farewell speech marking the completion of his four-year posting to Kuala Lumpur. Mao Zedong, the founder of Communist China, famously used "lips and teeth" to describe the bond between his country and North Korea.

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