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Malaysia's biggest railway, China's biggest coup?

$12.8bn project kicks off amid hopes and concerns about Beijing's growing influence

From left, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, Chinese State Council member Wang Yong, and CCCC Chairman Liu Qitao attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the new railway in Kuantan on Aug. 9.

KUANTAN, Malaysia -- A Chinese state-owned contractor broke ground Wednesday on Malaysia's largest railway project, symbolizing Southeast Asia's growing economic reliance on Beijing's financial clout and technological prowess.

While the project is a major coup for China, which is aggressively promoting its Belt and Road Initiative to develop infrastructure throughout Eurasia and Southeast Asia, the 55 billion ringgit ($12.8 billion) deal has critics questioning Malaysia's transparency in dishing out big-ticket projects.

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