By LIU WEIFENG
Express staff

The exploitation of the economic potential and cultural exchange between Penang in Malaysia and China¡¯s Xiamen should be strengthened, Penang¡¯s Chief Minister Kou Tsu Koon said yesterday.
The two cities have had naturally close ties for more than 200 years, as most of the Penang people are descendants of Fujian Province, after moving there in the late 1700s.
Chinese migrants, most of whom are from South Fujian¡¯s Xiamen and Quanzhou, have gone to Penang in the past two centuries to trade, work as labourers or in business. As it turns out, Doctor Kou¡¯s hometown is also Xiamen. This year is the 10th anniversary of the establishment of a ¡°sister city¡± relationship between Penang and Xiamen.
In 1993, during a visit to China, Malaysia¡¯s President Mahathir and former Chinese Premier Li Peng decided to establish links between Xiamen and Penang. And in November that year, the two cities officially signed the friendship agreement.
The chief minister said the anniversary should be looked upon as a milestone for the close past and a stepping stone to an even more intimate future. However, the break in direct flights between the two cities since 2000 has caused some regret. They were initiated in 1991.
Tean Kon Pin, general manager of Penas Realty SDN Berhad, a property businessman who is member of the Malaysian delegation, said it was ¡°mainly due to the small number of passengers.¡± There was once only three passengers on a flight, he said. But efforts are being made to resume the direct link. Located on the west coast of Malaysia, Penang has been a regional port centre since the late 1900s, leading to the prosperity of the tourism and educational services.
According to the chief minister, Penang wants to upgrade the bilateral relations between the two cities in tourism, education and trade.
Already over the past 10 years, the cities have achieved great progress in economic and trade co-operation. In 1997, Southern Natsteel (Xiamen) Ltd was jointly operated by investors from Xiamen, Singapore and Penang. A co-ordinated management system has been established between the production and supply chain of Dell Computer¡¯s branch enterprises, which were established in Xiemen in 1998 and in Penang in 1993.
Dell¡¯s suppliers in Penang set up operations in Xiamen to support the US group¡¯s logistics.
The Sui Wah Group from Penang has invested in Xiamen to produce electrical equipment and has stablished a manufacturing, trade and retail service chain in Xiamen and between the two cities.
Meanwhile, speaking of future cooperation, Doctor Kou said the two cities will expand and increase mutual investment based on respective comparative advantages. And it is necessary for the two regions to consolidate their own roles as gateways in their respective economic homelands.
Penang has an Indonesia-Malaysia- Thailand economic backbone and Xiamen owes its economic strength to China, Doctor Kou said.