Malaysia: China, Malaysian Chinese and GE-14


February 15, 2017

Malaysia: China, Malaysian Chinese and GE-14

by Dato Dennis Ignatius@www.freemalaysiatoday.com

Image result for Salleh Said Keruak

Communications and Multimedia Minister Salleh Said Keruak (pictured with de facto PM Rosmah Mansor) recently offered three reasons why Barisan Nasional (BN) can expect a significant increase in support from the Chinese community at the next general elections – “the opposition’s shortcomings despite being given the opportunity; Malaysia’s good relations with China; and, the good moral politics practiced by the BN.” (Bernama, 5th February 2017)

It is an astonishing assertion to say the least. In the first place, by any reckoning, the Opposition in both Selangor and Penang has, in fact, performed far better than previous UMNO-BN governments. In a few short years, corruption and waste are significantly down; there is greater accountability and transparency and people are better off than before. And this despite the unrelenting hostility and lack of cooperation from the federal government.

The Opposition may have their shortcomings but there’s little doubt that if they ever came to power at the federal level, Malaysia would be the better for it.

As for the claim that BN practices “good moral politics,” it is so risible that it isn’t even worth a second thought.

The China card

The reference to China, on the other hand, is significant if only for the mindset it reveals. It suggests that the Minister  who is notorious when he was a Sabah state minister  considers Malaysian Chinese more parochial than patriotic, that the Chinese community will overlook the bigotry and racial prejudice perpetrated against them as well as the injustice, corruption and scandal that have blighted our nation simply because they prize good relations with China.

Acting on this belief, UMNO-BN ministers have assiduously sought to co-opt China into their elections strategy in the expectation that China’s ringing endorsement of the current Malaysian leadership will play out well with Malaysian Chinese.

At the ground level, a senior UMNO minister even went so far as to accompany the Chinese Ambassador around as the ambassador distributed Chinese government assistance to Malaysian Chinese schools, something that was always frowned upon in the past.

The MCA too appears to be counting on China’s endorsement to restore its fortunes as the party of choice for Malaysian Chinese. By setting up a PRC affairs committee and an OBOR (One Belt One Road) centre, the MCA is clearly hoping to convince Malaysian Chinese that its close relationship with China will bring huge dividends to the Malaysian Chinese community through lucrative deals, projects and other businesses.

But is relations with China a key election issue for Malaysian Chinese? Even a cursory survey of Malaysian Chinese attitudes suggests otherwise. In fact, their key concerns – security, education, tolerance and good governance – are not even on Salleh’s radar.

Security and safety

There is no doubt that Malaysian Chinese have been quite traumatized by the rising level of anti-Chinese sentiment in the country as well as the threat of racial violence.

Image result for Chinese Ambassador in Petaling Street

The Chinese Ambassador to Malaysia in Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur (2015)

For many, the 2015 Petaling Street affair – when senior UMNO leaders shamefully stood by and did nothing even as the Red Shirts threatened a bloodbath – was a turning point; it indicated that Malaysian Chinese could no longer count on UMNO-BN for their safety and survival.

Frustrated at the lack of government action and fearful for their safety, many Malaysian Chinese, and others as well, applauded when the Chinese Ambassador finally intervened to stop things from getting out of hand.

Those who believe that China might provide some protection for Malaysian Chinese might, therefore, welcome closer relations with China; not because of any loyalty per se to their ancestral homeland but simply in the hope that it would bring a measure of stability.

Some also harbour the hope that closer relations with China might somehow forestall the growing drift towards Islamic extremism in Malaysia, another area of great concern to Malaysian Chinese as well as to other Malaysians. They reason that the more indispensable China is to Malaysia’s economic well-being and to UMNO-BN’s survival, the less UMNO would want to scare them away with any dramatic Islamisation initiatives.

Related image

The Anti-Chinese Malays

Whether China can or will provide such a security blanket is, however, an open question. Observers have argued, for example, that the Chinese Ambassador’s intervention in the Petaling Street affair was aimed more at avoiding the kind of internal instability that could jeopardize China’s economic and political gains in the country rather than out of any particular concern for Malaysian Chinese.

Education

It is no secret that Malaysian Chinese also place a very high premium on education and the opportunities that a good education provides. It is, after all, education that transformed a ragtag bunch of largely indentured labourers into an economic powerhouse that Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi recently described as “the group that will carry the nation forward.”

Image result for The Racist Zahid Hamidi

The Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Hamidi with UMNO Racists, Noh Omar and Jamal Ikan Bakar Yunos

In this context, the Chinese school system occupies a special place in the Malaysian Chinese psyche. It is more than just education; it is about inculcating traditional values, culture and language. Its very existence is a psychological beacon of hope and comfort, an assurance that their language, culture and identity will endure.

When the Chinese school system is condemned as unconstitutional, detrimental to national integration and threatened with closure, when the Unified Examination Certificate is refused recognition, when funds are withheld, it is, rightly or wrongly, perceived as a thinly veiled attack on the Malaysian Chinese community itself.

After all, how is it justified to demand the closure of Chinese schools on the grounds of national unity when Chinese schools today are more integrated than national schools, when foreign English-medium private schools proliferate, when monoracial educational and religious institutions continue to flourish with government support?

To be sure, we have a serious national unity issue in this country that needs urgent attention. However, the way to build unity must surely be through consultation, cooperation and accommodation rather than further marginalising besieged minorities or demonising them for political expediency.

Tolerance

As well, Malaysian Chinese are deeply concerned, even grieved, over the way they have been racially harassed and taunted by many from within UMNO and PAS itself.

It hurts that even after more than a century of living in Malaysia and contributing to its development as much as anyone else, they are still considered interlopers, intruders and “pendatangs.” It hurts when they are taunted as unpatriotic, as disloyal, as ungrateful. It hurts when decades of blood, sweat and tears in the service of their nation are dismissed as irrelevant or deliberately downplayed. Or that their votes are not solicited with promises of wise policies but demanded with threats of punishment and retribution.

And it hurts when those who come from countries like Indonesia are permitted to be proud of their heritage while Malaysian Chinese must always be watchful lest they be accused of chauvinism and disloyalty.

Sure, no community is without their faults but the constant racist polemics is discouraging, discomforting and disquieting.

Good governance

Finally, there is the issue of good governance.Like other Malaysians, Malaysian Chinese are sick and tired of the corruption and abuse of power that has become commonplace in our nation today.

It was this concern that compelled thousands of them to join their fellow citizens in participating in the BERSIH rallies, despite the threats and intimidation, to press for political change, for respect for the constitution and for good and clean governance.

Image result for najib sold malaysia to china

Malaysian Chinese, in fact, feel insulted that politicians think they can be won over simply on the promise of good relations with China. They are, first and foremost, Malaysians and it is national issues like good governance, justice and respect for diversity that matter far more to them than relations with China.

Malaysian Chinese want what other Malaysians want

If UMNO-BN wants to win the support of Malaysian Chinese, it does not need to look to China; it simply needs to treat them with respect and dignity as fellow citizens of this nation we all call home.

In the final analysis, Malaysian Chinese want what everybody else in Malaysia so desperately wants – good governance, security, respect for our constitution and for the rights of all citizens irrespective of race or religion, and the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live in peace with their fellow citizens. And the answer to that is not found in Beijing but in Putrajaya.

 

 

 

6 thoughts on “Malaysia: China, Malaysian Chinese and GE-14

  1. China has a macro policy of empowering the overseas Chinese and lift their status to a level that the overseas Chinese will be the countries ambassadors and mirror the ancient Chinese culture. For China it is not all about money and profit only, For China the geopolitical strategy and cultural hegemony are equally important mission on global scale. Malaysia is just a one single footstep in its global march.In years to come the non-Chinese would have to embrace the Chinese culture more emphatically.

  2. //In the final analysis, Malaysian Chinese want what everybody else in Malaysia so desperately wants In the final analysis, Malaysian Chinese want what everybody else in Malaysia so desperately wants – good governance, security, respect for our constitution and for the rights of all citizens irrespective of race or religion, and the opportunity to pursue their dreams and live in peace with their fellow citizens. And the answer to that is not found in Beijing but in Putrajaya.

    Well said, Ambassador. But, I see no reason to believe in Putrajaya, not to mention Beijing. I would say the answer lies in the Malays. For Chinese Malaysians, the answer is within us also to convince our fellow Malays that we are Malaysians first. Only in doing the later, could Putrajaya reflects what we all Malaysians wanted, as mentioned by Ambassador.

  3. I feel kind of strange when the author keeps using the term Malaysian Chinese, seems like all residents of Chinese heritage in Malaysia are not citizens of Malaysia but citizens of China. If they were not citizens of Malaysia, how could they participate in the Malaysian election?

    In the United States there is a difference between Chinese American and American Chinese. The first of two nationality words is adjectival, modifying the second word, a noun. So a Chinese American is an American citizen who happens to be of Chinese heritage. Since American is not really an ethnicity, it’s hard to imagine what an American Chinese would be. I suppose it would be a citizen of China who came originally from America, or a citizen of China living in America, like those with green cards living here as permanent residents. They have the rights to stay to work and make a living, but cannot participate in any political elections.

  4. It is perceivable that anti-Malaysian Chinese rhetoric by middle level UMNO leaders and their ground level operators has toned down recently. The question is is this enough to corral more of the Chinese voters back to BN?

    With so many other factors at play, it is really difficult to tell. It may well have a significant effect given that to many Malaysian Chinese, (especially the older ones), stability and hence a calmer business environment overrides many things, including rampant corruption which has already become a way of life in Malaysia anyway. It can also of course be argued that even here there is a tipping point and that point could be the reason why the GE13 result was what it was perceived to be, a mini Chinese Tsunami.

    No doubt the usual carrot and kris approach would be used by UMNO / BN when GE14 comes.

    BN / UMNO strategist has to be aware that the Chinese population overall has fallen so much that their vote bank is not what it used to be and any big swing away from UMNO / BN must mean a mini Malay Tsunam as well. And here, with the economy going south which hit the Malay community more and faster, the corruption issue looms much larger.

    Either way, UMNO / BN is in for a rough ride regardless of whether the Opposition could get its act together.

    A crucial factor could be the “though we dislike Mahathir, we dislike Najib more”

  5. For most Malaysian Chinese, China as a vote factor can only attract a few business owner but most Chinese Malaysian, it’s not a vote factor, possible even negative if their conduct is unbecoming such as colluding with our corrupt politicians.

    It is actually usual, those who prejudices others patriotism, are the more likely to be the parochial one.

  6. By TN 2050 the population of Malaysia would have doubled. Then the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian would not make up the same percentage of the population as thy do today because of our policies. This will then be no longer an issue.

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