Ethnic Relations in Peninsular Malaysia: The Cultural and Economic Dimensions
Lee Hock Guan
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
This paper looks at the changing ethnic relations in Peninsular Malaysia in
terms of the interactions between the state’s policies to advance Malay cultural
dominance and reduce ethnic economic inequality and the aspirations and
actions of the Chinese community. The state of ethnic relations partly will
depend on whether the majority of the ethnic members, in particular the ethnic
elites, are pursuing separatist or amalgamative strategies and goals, and on
whether the rival ethnic groups stand in positions of marked inequality or near
equality to each other. In this sense, since the 1969 ethnic riots, ethnic
relations have eluded out right conflicts in part because the rival ethnic
communities have pursued mainly amalgamative strategies and goals, and in
part because the economic inequality gap has narrowed between the Malays
and non-Malays. However, the expanding place of Islam in the Malay
personal, and hence collective, identity and the relative success in making social
classes more multiethnic have added additional complexities to the future of
ethnic relations.
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