The story of the Malays.
Chinese businesses in Southeast Asia expanded. Very soon they were building ships for inter-island trade and trade with China. As a result, more Southeast Asian locals lost their role in trade as Chinese junks replaced the ships of the Malays. Chinese influence also grew when they were able to offer their services to the local Rulers. At their suggestion, the Rulers farmed out the task of tax collection to them to take advantage of their efficiency and larger sums that they were able to collect. Next, they were licensed to operate the opium, nutmeg, pepper and other monopolies. As the Chinese expanded their businesses their participation in administrative activities also increased, and the locals retreated further. Meanwhile, the superior skills of the Chinese in various crafts put the local craftsmen out of business. When the Chinese in the Philippines were expelled, the Spanish colonialists, the Mestizos and the locals elites found themselves without shoes and other basic goods. Now indispensable, the Chinese had to be back.
It was the same in the Dutch East Indies, Siam, Burma, Malaya and Indochina. Everywhere the Europeans established their colonies. The Chinese moved in as middlemen in business and provided good craftsmen who were able to needs of the European and local communities. In time the number of Chinese so increased that their assimilation was no longer possible. When they brought their woman with them, intermarriage with the local stopped. Chinatowns started to become a feature of almost every urban area in Southeast Asia. The Chinese community’s usefulness ensured its protection by the European colonial powers as well as by the local Rulers.
The Indians and the Arabs, however, behaved differently. Their communities were never big nor did they encroach into the trading activities of the locals. They tended to blended with the locals and to intermarry when they wished to settle. They would eventually forget their own languages completely and would identify fully with the locals, whether they were Malays, Sumatrans, Javanese or the numerous tribes found in the eastern islands of the Malay Archipelago. When the Arabs and the Indians Muslims introduced Islam, no animosity was provoked as there was no forcible conversion of the indigenous people. Much of the missionary work was carried out by local converts. The Europeans also behaved differently, arriving not in trading ships but in armed merchantmen. Nor did they believe in free trade. One of the Rulers of Macassar-now Ujung Padang in Indonesia-had to point out to the Dutch that ‘God made the land and the sea; the land divided among men and the sea he gave in common. It has never been heard that anyone be forbidden to sail the seas. European nation wanted monopolies and so began by setting up fortified trading stations. Eventually, as a final solution, they conquered their trading partners to ensure supply and exclusivity.
Among the Europeans, the Spanish, and to a lesser degree the Portuguese, believed it was God-given task to Christianise the locals. In spain, after the re-conquestby the Catholics, Muslims and Jews who had been forcibly converted ha to prove the genuineness of their conversion by eating pork. The same occurred in Southeast Asia. In this way, the Christian converts in the Philippines were also separated from the Muslims. It is only lately that the Filipinos have learnt to respect the Muslims aversion to pork. But the schism between Christians and Muslims remained very deep and has become a cause for conflict and war among the Filipinos. Since it was the Chinese who converted to Chiristianity more readily, they would to get on better with the Europeans in the colonies. Changed religious belief caused no division within the Chinese community, nor were the Chinese active in spreading their own religions. The locals, whether Muslims or Christian, were much more tolerant of the Chinese than they were of each other.
To varying degrees, this was also the situation in the states of the Malay Peninsula and the British colonies of Singapore, Malacca, Penang. With the exception of Singapore, the Malay Peninsula had the largest number of Chinese immigrants anywhere in Southeast Asia. Their inflow was encouraged by the British, and the ethno-demographic consequences of that fact persist until the present day.
To be continued
Ref: A doctor in the house
Memoirs of Tun dr Mahathir bin Mohamad