China Flexes Political Muscle to Expand Power
Senior Chinese leaders offered in 2016 to help bail out a Malaysian government fund at the center of a swelling, multibillion-dollar graft scandal, according to minutes from a series of previously undisclosed meetings reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Chinese officials told visiting Malaysians that China would use its influence to try to get the U.S. and other countries to drop their probes of allegations that allies of then-Prime Minister Najib Razak and others plundered the fund known as 1MDB, the minutes show.
The Chinese also offered to bug the homes and offices of Journal reporters in Hong Kong who were investigating the fund, to learn who was leaking information to them, according to the minutes.
In return, Malaysia offered lucrative stakes in railway and pipeline projects for China’s One Belt, One Road program of building infrastructure abroad. Within months, Mr. Najib—who has denied any wrongdoing in the 1MDB matter—signed $34 billion of rail, pipeline and other deals with Chinese state companies, to be funded by Chinese banks and built by Chinese workers.