Blame the Chinese!

I enjoy hearing from readers. Even when they express views I find disturbing.

Just before the last Malaysian general election, I wrote a blog-post about the corrupting influence of unfettered power (see Malaysia’s Election Eve). The article focused on corruption in Malaysia, not race. But as with most things Malaysian, race is never far behind.

In recent days, a reader picked up on this blog-post and delivered a simple message: you Chinese in Malaysia are the cause of our corruption. We Malays were innocents until the British ‘let’ you in to the country (my emphasis). Stop complaining, since it is your corrupting influence that is coming back to bite you. (To see the comment for yourself, scroll down along the comments section  below Malaysia’s Election Eve.)

Leaving aside the historical point that there were Chinese in Malaysia long before the British arrived, forgive me for stating the blindingly obvious: corruption in any country affects all its citizens. Corruption in Malaysia (which the reader appears to accept) affects Malay, Chinese, Indian and Orang Asli (the indigenous peoples of Malaysia) equally.

Blaming minority races in Malaysia is not new. The day after the recent general elections, when the ruling party lost the popular vote but nonetheless kept the majority of seats, the incumbent Prime Minister explained his performance in terms of a ‘Chinese tsunami’. Utusan Malaysia, a leading Malay-language newspaper, regularly publishes incendiary material which deliberately stokes racial feeling and attributes all kinds of evil to the Chinese. An infamous article with the heading Orang Cina Malaysia – apa lagi yang anda mahu? (Chinese of Malaysia – what more do you want?) listed Malaysia’s 10 wealthiest people, 8 of whom were Chinese. The message? You’re already rich, what more could you possibly want? Equality? This provocative title was repeated after the recent general election results, in yet another twisted article.

But let us put all this aside. Let us assume for a minute that what the reader contends is true – that palm-greasing is a peculiarly Chinese phenomenon. How does this explain Singapore, a country within spitting distance of Malaysia?

Singapore has a Chinese majority in power, yet it is consistently ranked amongst the least corrupt countries in the world. On the Tranparency International Index, where a lower number is better, Singapore is ranked 5th while Malaysia shares 54th place with the Czech Republic, Latvia and Turkey. Why the difference? What does Singapore have which Malaysia lacks?

The answer seems pretty clear to me: good governance.

I suggest that it is the absence of good governance – the absence of sufficient checks and balances to the wielding of power – which has put China, Mexico, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Russia in the top 5 in terms of illicit outflows between 2001 and 2010. Power corrupts, and in Malaysia, fifty six years of power corrupt absolutely. There is no evidence to suggest that the Chinese, Mexicans, Malays, Arabs and Russians are intrinsically more corrupt than anyone else on the planet, despite the staggering numbers in this report.

It is easier of course, to find a scapegoat than to face up to the real issues at hand. Why bother, when all you need do is point your finger at the successful minority groups in your midst? Malaysia today is nowhere near where it should be in this world, given the extent of its natural resources. Its tiny neighbour to the south, an island so small you need a magnifying glass to see it on the map, has left Malaysia far behind. How could a former mosquito-infested swamp which has to import everything, even drinking water, have raced ahead of a land as bountiful as Malaysia?

That is the question Malaysia’s ruling party and its acolytes should be asking. With the rise of China and India, Malaysia could benefit handsomely from home-grown ties, but instead of embracing its Chinese and Indian minorities, Malaysia treats its minorities as second-class citizens, forever fearing that the Malays will not be able to make it in this world unless they receive special help.

In blaming minority races for a host of travails, the ruling party and its acolytes are following a well-trodden path. When propaganda triumphs over reason, the consequences are stark, and the examples in other countries do not bear thinking about.

Malaysia is still far from such extremes, and I truly hope it remains that way. But I fear more and more for my country. It is already no longer as tolerant as the home I once knew, and I worry Malaysia will lose its way even more. Instead of the different races coming together, we may be pulled further apart. If we are to build the country we all want, we must…

I don’t have the answers, but one of them must surely be: stop blaming the Chinese.

8 Comments

Filed under Cultural Identity, Malaysia

8 responses to “Blame the Chinese!

  1. Aileen Khoo

    So very right! Thanks for the courage in expressing your thoughts and the time taken from your busy schedule.

  2. ghengsrs

    Dr.Chin Yoke Siak ,very well reasoned and written dispassionately for A Rational Analysis of the pains and sufferings of all Malaysian People including our so called our Bumi Ada Putras ! yes Malays enlightened to the History of the Malaysian development from the Colonial Days also realize the tragic position of the three Amin cultural races there ! That’ s why there is a Party Pakataan Raayat Raaayat yang Bersama Padu Dan Gotong Royong untok Ruku Negara Malaysia Satu Kayar Dan Jaya ! Apa Lagi Mahu ? Salam Maluikom Ramai Raayat !

    Gerald Heng Sr.(kawan Dan Murid Pak Chik Chin Kee-Onn author ” Maraiee” etc etc etc )

    Sent from my iPad

  3. ghengsrs

    Sent from my iPad

  4. it is always so easy to ‘blame the…’ for something, much more difficult to address the route-cause of the problem.

  5. dennis

    the gandalf-like figure who lords over utusan malaysia long after his retirement (as a dropped minister in 2008) is zainuddin maidin. a relative of one long serving ex-premier, he is largely seen as the man who engineers the paper’s far right rhetoric. the irony of it all, his grandpa is of tamil descent.

  6. dennis

    today, a chinese malaysian named ridzuan tee (a religious teacher and evangelical forum producer on RTM1), and a native kadazan of sabah named aziz ‘bongsu’ jaafar (who is the mufti, or head of religion, of sabah state) called on muslims of malaysia to discard their past ethnic identities and he called ‘malay’. they got the brickbats they ought to have seen coming.

  7. dennis

    recently a chinese malaysian named ridzuan tee (a religious teacher and evangelical forum producer on RTM), and a native kadazan of sabah named aziz jaafar (who is the mufti, or head of religion department, of sabah state) called on muslims of malaysia to discard their current ethnic identities and be called ‘malay’. they got the brickbats they ought to have seen coming.

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