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Why are there so many Chinese in Malaysia?

Why are there so many Chinese in Malaysia? When did they immigrate to Malaysia?

Many Chinese Malaysian artistes who are popular in China are often considered to be either from Hong Kong or Taiwan. These include internationally renowned film star Michelle Yeoh and queen of love songs, Fish Leong. They are all Malaysian Chinese and they can speak Mandarin really well. Unlike the Chinese who are from the second or third generation of immigrants in Europe and the United States, the Malaysian Chinese have mastered the Chinese education fairly well.

So the question is, why are there so many Chinese in Malaysia? When did they immigrate to Malaysia?

The Malaysian Chinese

The Malaysian Chinese or Chinese-Malaysian are descendants of the immigrants from the Republic of China, coming from Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi, Hainan and other provinces. They migrated to Malaysia in the past few hundred years. The Chinese make up the largest ethnic group in Malaysia after the Malays with a total population of 6.4 million (2010).

The History of the Malaysian Chinese

The Expedition of Cheng Ho

The history of Chinese immigrants in Malaysia can be traced back to the Han dynasty. During the Tang and Song dynasties, China and the Malaya had frequent commercial activities and cultural exchanges. In the Yuan dynasty, there were clear records of Chinese settlements in the local area.

When Cheng Ho went on his expedition in the Ming dynasty, he stayed in Malacca on many occasions and later Indonesia. So far, there are still a lot of remains related to Cheng Ho in Malacca. Some Chinese began to settle in Malacca and married the locals and gradually influenced by the Malay culture.

At this point, the Chinese began to settle in Malacca and became an important ethnic group in Malacca. After the decline of the Ming dynasty, the descendants of these married Chinese began to alienate from their motherland due to factors such as inconvenient transportation and the policy of retreating their customs. In the context of blending with local culture, they gradually formed a new nation – the Baba Nyonya community.

The mother tongue of the Baba Nyonya community is strongly influenced with dialects (mainly Hokkien) and slowly transformed into mixed dialects and the form of Malay Language for the Baba Nyonya community. Nevertheless, the language still retains the Chinese customs and practices.

Opium War and the Treaty of Nanjing – The Influx of Chinese Immigrants

The large number of Chinese immigrants all over Malaysia today began after the Second Opium War. The Qing dynasty was defeated and the Chinese and British signed the "Beijing Treaty." The Qing court allowed foreign businessmen to recruit Han Chinese to work as cheap labour (coolie). Since the British colonists at that time needed a lot of manpower to develop the Malaya Peninsula, a large number of Chinese workers (or coolies) were imported from China into the Malaya Peninsula to become miners and labourers. After the implementation of the law, the number of overseas Chinese had risen sharply. The number of Chinese immigrants arriving at this time had greatly surpassed that of the early Baba Nyonya, so those who were settled earlier were called "new customers."

During this period, the male-female ratio of the Chinese population in the Malay Peninsula was seriously imbalance. This is due to the workers’ strong patriotism as they did not intend to help to bring the old and the young to settle in Malaya, but hope to make enough money to return to their hometown. The influx of Chinese in Nanyang could only prove one thing and that is if a place is filled with opportunities to survive, people will go there.

The whole world began to experience the Great Depression in 1929. During this period, overseas Chinese females began to immigrate to Malaya, balancing the male to female proportion. As the world entered the Cold War era after the Second World War, the British in Malaya tightened the immigration regulations and caused the tide of immigration from China to come to decrease and stop. Since then, the Chinese have participated in the Malayan Independence Movement and the founding movement of Malaysia began to spread locally.


Malaysian Does Not Equal Being Malay

Some people mistakenly regard the "Malays" as the abbreviation of "Malaysians". This is not true. In fact, the Malays are only one of the Malaysian nationalities. So, Malaysian does not equal being Malay.

Malaysians refer to people with the Malaysian nationality, including the Malays, Chinese, Indians (Malaysia's three major races) and other minorities.

Besides, the Malaysian government has decided that the Chinese term for Malaysia to be da ma thus, the term Malaysian is known as da ma ren. The Chinese in Malaysia are known as Malaysian Chinese and not Malay Chinese.

Malaysia has become is a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country. You can experience the unique ethnic culture and customs, appreciate the historical architecture preserved in various periods in Malaysia, and experience the convergence of modern and traditional Malaysia if you come to Malaysia.

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