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Re-examination of the “Chinese nationalism” and Categorization of the Chinese in Malaya:

The Case of the Chinese in Penang, 1890s-1910s

SHINOZAKI Kaori, Ph.D. student,

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences University of Tokyo

Email: kaoris@pd.jaring.my

ABSTRACT

It is often described that the Chinese in Malaya strongly oriented towards China before the independence. Their activities were all explained by the "China factor", described as if it was always developed only by influences from China. It is also often discussed that how much they contributed to the revolution in China in 1911 and other historical development in China. These points of view are very popular among Chinese scholars and is seldom discussed by Western scholars. The latter would rather focus on the role of the Chinese community in Southeast Asian context, namely, their role as informal bureaucracy system to gain revenue for the colonial governments through operation of opium farms. Both circles hardly link to each other. My paper attempts to try to discuss these topics as a whole and explain “Chinese nationalism” as a result of shifts both in China and Southeast Asia.

1. Review of Studies

In studies on history and politics of the Chinese community in Peninsular Malaysia, there is a widely accepted approach. It is the approach which divides the Chinese leaders into two categories, namely, English-educated leaders and Chinese-educated leaders and understands their personal behaviour based on the prototype of each. This approach can be said to become very common and well established in Heng Pek Koon’s study.[i]

She points out that the division has been developed since the early 20th century in the colonial circumstances and applies this division to analyse behaviour of the Chinese leaders in Malaya in the 1950s, especially those in MCA (Malayan/Malaysian Chinese Association). According to her, English-educated leaders, often labelled as “Baba”, “Peranakan” or ”Straits Chinese”, are characterized that they were well versed in English and Western ways and ideas and composed of elites class who were engaged as the professionals. Politically, they are said to have oriented local politics and have little attachment to China and Chinese culture. It is also said that they lacked support from the Chinese masses. On the other hand, Chinese-educated leaders, exactly speaking ”Laukeh” leaders in her term referring to established Chinese immigrants and Malayan-born Chinese who were socialized within a completely Chinese milieu[ii], are described that they were, as ‘hua qiao’, strongly attached to China and Chinese culture. It is explained that most of them could not speak English and thus had little relations with other ethnic groups, including the Colonial authority and European community. They are also said to have influenced the Chinese masses as leaders of secret society, Chinese Chamber of Commerce and other various voluntary associations.

Heng explains that the unification of the two groups, namely, “English-educated group” as negotiator with other ethnic groups and the “Chinese-educated group” who reflected requests of the masses and mobilized them, worked well to deal effectively with the most urgent problems facing the Chinese in Malaya in the post-war period leading to independence. But the characteristic of the MCA top leaders, who lacked the support from the Chinese community and had little attachment to Chinese culture, could not satisfy aspiration of the Chinese masses who requested to maintain Chinese education within the national education system and recognition of Chinese as an official language. She concludes that it finally fragmented the party and lowered its presence.

In an attempt to analyse post-war politics in Malaya, she is based on the division of the Chinese community which had been developed since the early 20 century. In defining the division, she did not...
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