Asian Social Science
An Analysis of Malay-Sino Relations in Malaysia
Aida Idris Faculty of Business and Accountancy, University of Malaya 50603 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tel: 603-7967-3994 E-mail: email@example.com Abstract Having recently celebrated her fiftieth year of independence, Malaysia now needs to take a re-look at some critical issues concerning ethnic relations in the country. With increasing public pressure towards human rights and social equity, certain government initiatives such as the New Economic Policy may warrant a thorough overhaul. Such exercise, however, should only begin based on an improved understanding of the past and present associations among the various ethnic groups. With that in mind the current study sets out to paint a fresh and candid picture of the relationships between the two largest ethnic communities in Malaysia: the Malays and Chinese. This is sought through a review of the literature as well as an analysis of macro-level statistics, in particular the vital statistics, industry figures and mean incomes. Keywords: Malaysia, Ethnic relations, Values, Economic performance 1. Introduction Ethnic relations have always been central to nation-building in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society such as Malaysia. In her fifty years of nationhood friction among particular ethnic groups has surfaced from time to time which affects social and economic developments, and necessitates changes in government policies and programs. Understanding ethnic relations issues in the country is, therefore, critical to its future stability and wellbeing - especially as the population becomes increasingly globalized, more open and more educated. In this paper, focus is given on the two biggest ethnic groups in Malaysia: the Malays and Chinese. The study begins with a historical account of their relationships - from the early days to the present – and proceeds with a comparative analysis of their overall demographics, cultural values, management styles, and economic positions. As the intention is to paint a macro-level picture of the differentials, secondary data are used in the analysis such as vital statistics, industry figures and mean incomes. The findings are expected to provide the basis for further studies in the area, particularly those using primary data from smaller and more specific samples. 2. The History of Malay-Sino Relations in Malaysia The migration of the Malay peoples from Southern China to the Malayan peninsular happened so long ago – estimated at 2,500 to 1,500 B.C. – that they are generally considered as the indigenous, or Bumiputera, population (Hirschman, 1975). Although their origins were rooted in Southern China, these earliest boatmen who came to Malaya through Indochina, Siam and Indonesia, slowly developed their own identity and culture as Malays. Subsequent contact between the Malays and various ethnic groups arose mostly due to religious missionaries and trade relations. Since the coming of the first Indian, Chinese and Arab ships prior to 1,000 A.D. and later the Portuguese envoys in 1511, the Malays have always been exposed to a multitude of external influences in their political, economic and cultural practices. In the present section, the history of Malay and Chinese ethnic relations in Peninsular Malaysia is traced; the findings are organized in three parts, according to chronological order, from pre-independence to post-independence to the future. 2.1 Pre-Independence (Early History to 1957) Malay-Sino relations in the Malayan peninsular began more than a thousand years ago. According to Purcell (1948), the earliest Chinese visits to Malaya in the first millennium were by Buddhist monks and it was not until the 14th. Century that trading was mentioned in any Chinese records. The earliest Chinese settlement in Malaya can be traced back to the times of the Malacca Sultanate in the fifteenth century (Yen, 2000). Because of its strategic location, Malacca...
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