Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad says the new deal is a ‘mutually beneficial agreement’. [Vincent Thian/AP]

Putrajaya, MalaysiaMalaysia has renegotiated a major rail project with China to reduce the cost of construction by a third and increase the level of local involvement, signalling a shift in China’s approach to its six-year-old Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Nine months of protracted negotiations over the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) following last May’s historic change in government, resulted in a “mutually beneficial agreement” for both China and Malaysia, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told journalists at his office in Putrajaya on Monday.

The original agreement was negotiated and signed in 2016 by Mahathir’s predecessor Najib Razak.

“It was an unjustified, hefty lump sum

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