The Winter of Chinese Discontent

By Masterwordsmith

Ten years ago, the Chinese community in Malaysia thought in terms of  ‘us’ (The Chinese) and ‘them’ (The Malays). Fast forward to the present and what do we have? A complete paradigm shift where the Chinese (and even other groups in Malaysia) realize that it is no longer a race struggle but a class struggle that we face in Malaysia today! In other words, no longer is it Chinese vs Malays but Malay-Chinese-Indian vs Malay-Chinese-Indian in a class struggle.

Undoubtedly, the political consciousness of Chinese has changed very radically. The Chinese community today are now more politically active and dare take a stand on issues – a far cry from those who cowered in fear ten years ago! (As a Chinese, I am discussing it from a Chinese perspective without prejudice against other races. I thought I’d better make this clear from the start.)

Whereas in the past, there were few Chinese who were involved in activism, the years of being sidelined have propelled them out of the comfort zone to come out in full force such as during the Bersih rally, even though some deny that fact. The stigma of being called ‘pendatang’ has injected us with new courage and indignation. And yes, we are finally coming out of our individual tempurungs for a better Malaysia for all!

And why are Chinese Malaysians braver now? It is because they are fed up. Angry. Frustrated. Even after contributing to the vibrancy of the Malaysian economy by opening up all kinds of enterprises, even after trying to be positive contributors to the development of this country, even after trying their best to integrate and to assimilate to the best of their abilities, they still have to fight for rights before the government gets to be more hard core in marginalizing and sidelining us. All this is done while they have the cheek to grandly deny that they are NOT sidelining us and worse still, we cannot voice our concerns or question this.

After slogging away and contributing to taxes, we see how vernacular schools i.e. hua xiao (do not get enough funds, and deserving students do not get scholarships. Our bright students who do not meet certain ‘requirements’ have to be on F and M scholarships i.e. father’s and mother’s scholarship. Whereas in the past people kept quiet, now we see how even a young man Chan Xian Yao, 19, a student who failed to obtain a “Khazanah-Cambridge Scholarship” filed a suit against Khazanah Nasional Berhad and three others at the High Court through his father Chan Chow Wang’s law firm. (Read more here.)

Despite whatever economic development achieved or the level of affluence enjoyed, or even the existence of middle class Chinese, does democracy and equality really exist? How far has the status quo crushed the patriotic hearts of the people by discriminatory policies, such as in education and housing?

While in the past many hid in political passivity, more and more are rising up to join organized movements to demand greater power, free speech, or other democratic rights against a repressive political system. In the last ten years, the winter of discontent has led to heavy debates which are more and more animated. Goodbye reticence, hello boldness!

Previously, it was normal for Chinese to give their support to MCA or Gerakan but the tide has changed because they will not suffer any more wishy-washy policies but are ready to moot political change via activism and the ballot box. The image of infallibility of MCA or Gerakan has been completely eroded in the last few years and regardless of how much they swivel in self- denial, they can forget about winning the support of the Chinese in the next election.  We know how these two political parties have fared in recent years, and more damningly, many have perceived them as being unwilling to take accountability for their mistakes. Even now, they are in political inertia and their popularity ratings are plummeting. Have they tried their best to protect and promote the welfare of Chinese?  How many will continue to support them and resign themselves to stagnation? I am sure that if candidates are good, Malaysian voters will vote for them based on the quality of their leadership and commitment and not along racial lines! And now, we have to contend with the implications of Nazri’s statement here.

In the last six months, the quality of life in our country is worsening despite claims of economic growth. Our pockets are lighter and we have to work longer hours to make ends meet. With the removal of subsidies and increases in fuel cost, the cost of living has spiralled out of control. My son has just graduated and I cannot see how his current salary is sufficient to afford his insurance premiums and housing loan (if and when he saves up enough $$ to buy a place).

In reality, the income gap in our country has increased so alarmingly that we now have one of the highest Gini co-efficients in the world as seen HERE.  Whatever fruits of our labour or economic success have not been fairly distributed so the spoils are NOT being enjoyed by those who work hard! The winter of discontent on the ground is real but does it appear that the status quo are able and willing to address the situation? Does it seem that they are more intent to do cosmetic surgery to make things look good when in fact, they do not?