Monday, August 29, 2011

False Patriotism

I saw this article while browsing through articles tagged "China" on Flipboard (iPad).

Adapt Yourself To Your Country And Prove Your Patriotism

Dr Teo said genuine unity would only exist if there was psychological assimilation, meaning the non-Malays were willing to identify themselves with Malays as the original and dominant people of the country.

"They should accept the way of life of the Malays in the framework of national culture, including the use of Bahasa Melayu as the national language, and not feel that this will erode their ethnic identity.

"Why is this difficult as compared to the Malaysian Chinese who migrat to Australia and underwent psychological assimilation very fast.

I don't usually read/post about Malaysia (new tag!), even though my mom was born there. I think my maternal grandmother's family emigrated to Malaysia from Southern China in the 1800's to plant rubber trees. I have heard enough family stories to know that Dr. Teo is full of crap; the article basically blames the Chinese for ethnic tensions in Malaysia and conveniently ignores government sponsored discrimination. He begins the article by talking about unity and "non-Malays" but soon focuses on how the Chinese minority should "identify themselves with Malays as the original and dominant people of the country." Similar to Obama telling the GOP, "I won," Dr. Teo is telling the Chinese-Malaysians to accept that they're getting screwed.

According to my mom, my grandfather was the Minister of Education for Malaysia before its independence from England. We have a copy of some honor he received signed by Queen Elizabeth II. Anyway, after independence a lot of stuff changed. My grandfather probably lost his job and he fought to keep Chinese-language education available in Malaysia. Here's an abstract from a research paper:
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic country with three main ethnic groups: Malays, Chinese, and Indians. Malays are the largest ethnic group, comprising 57% of the population. Unlike the majority population in most modern countries, the Malays have been the least advantaged group both economically and educationally since the beginning of the independence period. After independence, Malaysian policy makers believed that establishing Malay as the national language and creating a national system of education would promote a unified culture, as well as the social and political development as a nation. Two policies were implemented to achieve these ends: the National Education Policy (1961) and the New Economics Policy (1971). In fact, the policies resulted in an educational system “preferential” to the Malays. The implications of this “preferential system” on the Chinese in Malaysia are discussed.

These "preferences" equated to quotas based on ethnicity. Whether appropriate or not, Chinese emigrates dominate the economy in Southeast Asian countries which generates all sorts of tension, jealousy, and resentment. In Malaysia, the new government reserved most (cushy) government jobs and higher education opportunities for ethnic Malays, leaving Chinese and Indians out in the cold. In response, the Chinese community created a parallel education system. My mom, and the rest of her siblings, received their primary education in Chinese language schools and went to college in Taiwan; none of them speak Malay nor currently live in Malaysia. How's that for unintended consequences (e.g., brain drain). Dr. Teo is quick to compare cultural assimilation of Chinese in Malaysia to those in Australia. As far as I know, Australia (and US/Canada) does not have ethic quotas that limit the opportunity of its Chinese immigrants.

This article also led me to think about my nationalism and patriotism. If you ask me about my ethnicity (whatever that means), I would say I'm Chinese-American, which is something different from "Chinese" or "American". Even though I'm 100% Han Chinese, Sindy's relatives in Beijing refers to me as an American. Unlike the CCP, I don't equate being Chinese to supporting the party or socialism/communism, but I don't have a concrete definition either. If pushed, I guess I identify more with Taiwan than mainland China, even though I'm not "Taiwanese" nor do I support the DPP.

Ultimately, what I think I believe in is best modeled (though far from perfect) by the "Western" liberal democracy... and by "liberal" I don't mean the Democratic party in the US. There is no inherent "Chinese" or "Malaysian" nationalism; we should be proud of our heritage but only support a minimal government that provides equal opportunities (not outcomes) for all its citizens. In my opinion, a government definitely should not redistribute wealth (USA and Europe), maintain ethnic quotas (Malaysia), or place itself above the law (PRC).

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