24.6% of the Malaysian population (2010)
|Regions with significant populations|
|Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Perak, Selangor|
|Malaysian Mandarin, Cantonese
Foochow, Hakka, Hokkien, Teochew
Malaysian English, Malay
|Predominantly Mahayana Buddhism, Significant Taoism and Christianity (Catholicism), minorities Islam and Hindu |
|Related ethnic groups|
|Singaporean Chinese, Peranakan, Han Chinese, Southern Chinese, Overseas Chinese|
Malaysian Chinese or Chinese Malaysians (Malay: Kaum Cina Malaysia; Chinese: trad 馬來西亞華人, simp 马来西亚华人, pin Mǎláixīyà Huárén) are Malaysian citizens of Han Chinese ancestry. Most are the descendants of Han Chinese who arrived between the early and the mid-20th century. Malaysian Chinese constitute one group of Overseas Chinese and is one of the largest Overseas Chinese communities in the world. Within Malaysia, they are usually simply referred to as "Chinese" and represent the second largest ethnic group in Malaysia after the ethnic Malay majority. As of 2010, approximately 6,960,000 Malaysian Chinese or 24% of the Malaysian population, self-identify as "Chinese".
Malaysian Chinese are a socioeconomically well established middle-class ethnic group and make up a highly disproportionate percentage of Malaysia's upper middle class, with a record of high educational achievement, and one of the highest household incomes among minority demographic groups in Malaysia. Malaysian Chinese are dominant in both the business and commerce sectors, controlling an estimated 70% of the Malaysian economy. Malaysian Chinese constitute eight out of the top 10 richest persons in Malaysia.
- 1 History
- 2 Origins
- 3 Demographics
- 4 Languages
- 5 Education
- 6 Name format
- 7 Religion
- 8 Politics
- 9 Socioeconomics
- 10 Trade and industry
- 11 Food
- 12 Intermarriage
- 13 Non-Bumiputera
- 14 Notable Malaysian Chinese
- 15 Miscellaneous
- 16 See also
- 17 References
The first wave of Han Chinese settlers came during the Malacca Empire in the early 15th century. The friendly diplomatic relations between China and Malacca culminated during the reign of Sultan Mansur Syah, who married the Chinese princess Hang Li Po. A senior minister of state and five hundred youths and maids of noble birth accompanied the princess to Malacca. The descendants of these people, mostly from Fujian province, are called the Baba (men) and Nyonya (women).
The second wave was caused by the massacre in Fujian in 1651-52 when the Manchus took over China. The Fujian refugees of Zhangzhou resettled on the northern part of the Malay peninsula while those of Amoy and Quanzhou resettled on the southern part of the peninsula. This group forms the majority of the Straits Chinese who were English-educated.
A much larger wave of immigrants, mainly from the controlled port of Fujian and Guangdong provinces through the administration of the British, this is due to the First Opium War of Battle of Amoy and Battle of Canton (May 1841) resulting Canton and Amoy being captured by the British to enhance their trading of the orient namely Old China Trade, which the authority differs from the Mainland China of Qing Dynasty, due to poverty and hard lives in mainland China most of them accepted the job offered by the British ranging from a British officer and coolies from the late 19th century until the early 20th century. Their immigration to Malaya and Straits Settlements was encouraged by the British, who used the Chinese to work in tin mines and rubber plantations. This group established Chinese Schools and were mostly Chinese educated.
Mainly the Chinese civil war, before the establishment of Republic of China, it was under the Qing Dynasty empire; citizens who leave Qing Empire without the Administrator consent are considered as traitor and therefore executed, as well as affecting their family member. Under the administration of Republic of China from 1911-1949, these rule are abolished and many migrated outside of Republic of China and mostly through the coastal region through the port of Fujian, Guangdong, Hainan and Shanghai These migration are considered one of the largest in its history as many of those who hold the nationality of Republic of China fled and settled down in South East Asia mainly between the years 1911-1949 Republic of China after the Nationalist led-Kuo Min Tang lost in Chinese Civil War in 1949 to Communist Party of China. Most of the Nationalist refugees or Neutral fled from Mainland China to Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Malaya. Many of those Nationalist who stayed behind are persecuted and also executed.
In the Chinese civil war, most of the Chinese migrated outside of Republic of China (1912–49) due to warring period due to arising warlord at the peak of declining state of Qing Dynasty empire . During Kuomintang mission to united whole of China, came along the Communist Party of China and are considered one of the biggest threats towards Kuomintang of Republic of China (1912–49), between the period of 1911 - 1949 many Chinese citizen who hold Republic of China citizenship are forced to migrate because of insecurity, high demand food and business opportunity due to war. In Post-war, Kuomintang's supporter and member migrated outside of mainland during 1911 – 1949 settled down in Singapore, Malaya, Sarawak, Sabah and automatically gain Malaysian citizenship in 1957 and 1963 as these countries gained independence. There are also evidence towards the Kuomintang member who settled down in Malaysia and Singapore such as the establishment of Malaysian Chinese Association whereby supporting the Kuomintang in China by funding them with the intention of reclaiming the Chinese mainland from the Communists. 
A much smaller wave came after the 1990s, holding the citizenship of the People's Republic of China (not to be confused with the Republic of China, "Taiwan"). These were mostly foreign spouses married to Malaysians and national sports coaches. At first, badminton coaches such as Han Jiang could only obtain permanent residency after repeated rejections of their citizenship applications. However, recently, diving coach Huang Qiang obtained his Malaysian citizenship.
Basically, there are four main dialect groupings: Min, Hakka, Cantonese and Wu.
The Min people are people whose ancestors came from Fujian province and speak one of the Min languages. They form the largest dialect group in Malaysia.
The Hokkien (福建人) are the largest Chinese dialect group in Malaysia. Chinese settlers from the southern regions of Fujian constitute the largest group and generally identify as Hokkien. The bulk of Chinese settlers in Malaya before the 18th century came from Quanzhou, Amoy, and Zhangzhou and settled primarily in Penang and Malacca, where they formed the bulk of the local Chinese populace. More Hokkien settled in Malaya from the 19th century onwards and dominated the rubber plantation and financial sectors of the Malayan economy. The bulk of the Hokkien-speaking Chinese settled in the Malay Peninsula and formed the largest dialect group in many states, specifically Penang, Malacca, Kelantan, Terengganu, Kedah, and Perlis. In Malaysian Borneo, the Hokkien make up a sizeable proportion within the Chinese community and are primarily found in larger towns, notably Kuching and Sibu. The Zhangzhou Hokkien migrated to the North Peninsula and the Quanzhou Hokkien migrated to the South Peninsula.
Teochew immigrants (潮州人) from the Chaoshan region began to settle in Malaya in large numbers from the 18th century onwards, mainly in Province Wellesley and Kedah around Kuala Muda. These immigrants were chiefly responsible for setting up gambier and pepper plantations in Malaya. More Teochew immigrated to Johor at the encouragement of Temenggong Ibrahim in the 19th century, and many new towns were established and populated by plantation workers from the Chaoshan region. The Teochew constitute a substantial percentage within the Chinese communities in Johor Bahru and principal towns along the coasts of Western Johor (notably Pontian, Muar, and – to a lesser extent – Batu Pahat) as well as selected hinterland towns in the central regions of the state. Many of them are the descendants of plantation workers who came to set up gambier and pepper plantations, following the administrative pattern of their countrymen in Johor. Smaller communities of Teochew can also be found in other states, notably in Sabak Bernam in Selangor, where many Teochew settled down as rice agriculturalists, as well as in the hinterlands of Malacca.
Chinese immigrants from Hainan (海南人) began to migrate to Malaya and North Borneo from the 19th century onwards, albeit in much smaller numbers than the aforementioned speech groups. The Hainanese were employed as cooks by wealthy Straits Chinese families, while others were engaged in food catering business or the fishery business and formed the largest dialect group in Kemaman district of Terengganu and Pulau Ketam (Selangor) as well as sizeable communities in Penang and Johor Bahru. Smaller communities of Hainanese are also found in Sarawak and Sabah, where they work as coffee shop owners and are mainly found in large towns and cities.
The Henghua (莆仙人), part of the Hokkien people, came from Putian. Their numbers were much smaller than the other Min Chinese from Fujian and they were mostly involved in the bicycle, motorcycle, and automobile spare parts industries.
Min Dong (闽东人) settlers from Fuzhou and Fuqing (福清) also came in sizeable numbers during the 19th century and have left a major impact on the corporate industry in the 20th century. They speak a distinct dialect and are classified separately from the Hokkiens. A large number of Min Dongs in Malaysia are Christians. The Min Dongs form the largest dialect group in Sarawak – specifically in areas around the Rajang River, namely the towns of Sibu, Sarikei and Bintangor. They also settled in large numbers in a few towns in Peninsular Malaysia, notably Sitiawan in Perak and Yong Peng in Johor.
The Hakka people (客家人), literally "Guest people", came from both Guangdong and Fujian provinces. They form the second largest group of people after the Min people. Large numbers of Hakka settled in the western parts of Malaya and North Borneo and worked as miners in the 19th century as valuable metals such as gold and tin were discovered. Descendants of these miners formed the largest community among the Chinese in Selangor and very large communities in Perak (specifically Taiping and Ipoh), Sarawak, Sabah, and Negeri Sembilan. As the gold and tin mining industries declined in economic importance in the 20th century, many turned to the rubber industry, and large numbers of Hakka settled in Kedah and Johor (principally in Kulai and Kluang). In Sabah, where the majority of ethnic Chinese are of Hakka descent, many of them were involved in agriculture. They cut down the forests to make way for tobacco, rubber, and coconut plantations. In time, the Hakka community also dominated the state's industry and economy. However, even today, many Sabahan Hakkas are still involved in agriculture, especially those living in rural towns such as Tenom and Kudat, where they are often the backbone of the local industry.
The Cantonese people, who speak the same Cantonese language, came from both Guangdong and Guangxi provinces and they can be subdivided into the following three subgroups. They form the third largest group of people after the Hakkas. They are found predominantly in Malaysia's capital city Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding Klang Valley region.
The Guangfu (广府人) came from the area around Guangzhou. They settled down in Kuala Lumpur of the Klang Valley, Ipoh of the Kinta Valley in Perak, Pahang as well as Seremban in Negeri Sembilan and Sandakan of Sabah. They started development and turned these early settlements into principal towns. Most of the early Cantonese worked as tin miners. From the late 19th century onwards, as the tin mining industry declined in economic importance, the Cantonese as well as other Malaysian Chinese gradually shifted their focus to business and contributed much to social and economic development in Malaya.
The Sei Yap (四邑人) are actually part of Guangfu (广府). They came from Sei Yap and speak the Sei Yap dialect. Sei Yap districts include Taishan, Kaiping, Enping and Xinhui. Sometimes Heshan county is included.
An early census of ethnic groups in the British Malay states, conducted by the British in 1835, showed that ethnic Chinese constituted 8 percent of the population and were mainly found in the Straits Settlements, while the Malays and Indians made up 88 percent and 4 percent of the population respectively. Malaya's population quickly increased during the 19th and 20th centuries, although the majority of Chinese immigrants were males rather than females. By 1921, Malaya's population had swollen to nearly three million, and the Chinese constituted 30 percent while the Malays constituted 54.7%, the population growth being fuelled by immigrants from neighbouring Indonesia (the Indians made up most of the remainder). While the Chinese population was largely transient, and many coolies returned to China on a frequent basis, 29 percent of the Chinese population were local-born, most of whom were the offspring of first-generation Chinese immigrants. The British government began to impose restrictions on migration during the 1930s, but the difference between the number of Chinese and Malays continued to decrease even after World War II. The 1947 census indicated that the Malays constituted 49.5% of the population, compared to the Chinese at 38.4%, out of a total population of 4.9 million.
|Malaysian Chinese historical demographics (%)|
By state & territory
The 2010 Population and Demography Census Report gives the following statistics (excluding non citizens):
|State||Chinese||Population||% of Population|
|Federal Territory||Chinese||Population||% of Population|
States with large Chinese population
As of 2012[update], the majority of Chinese people are concentrated in the west coast states of west Malaysia with significant percentage of Chinese (30% and above) such as Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Perak and Selangor.
Areas with significant Chinese populations
Penang island, Bukit Mertajam
Kepong, Cheras, Bukit Bintang, Old Klang Road, Sri Petaling, Pudu, Segambut.
Johor Bahru, Batu Pahat, Kluang, Muar, Kulaijaya, Segamat, Ledang, Pontian.
Ipoh, Taiping, Batu Gajah, Sitiawan, Teluk Intan
Subang Jaya/USJ, Puchong, Petaling Jaya, Damansara Jaya/Utama, Bandar Utama, Serdang, Klang.
|2011||5.46 Million||1.45 Million||29 %|
States with medium Chinese population
These are states where the Chinese are a significant minority (10% - 29.9%) such as Malacca, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Sarawak and Sabah.
The significant Chinese population areas (40% and above) for each state are
Rasah, Seremban, Bahau
Bentong, Raub, Mentakab, Kuantan
Kuching, Sibu, Bintulu, Miri, Sarikei, Sri Aman, Marudi, Lawas, Mukah, Limbang, Kapit, Serian, Bau
Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan. Tawau, Kudat and scattered regions in the south (most notably Beaufort and Keningau) also have small but significant Chinese communities
A governmental statistic in 2000 classifies the dialect affiliation of the ethnic Chinese in Malaysia:
Although their ancestral origins are different, due to intermarriages between the different linguistic groups and also due to regional influences, different regions have formed within Malaysia, each with its own de facto lingua franca to facilitate communication between the different Chinese dialects in the same region.
Furthermore, the younger generations have generally lost command of their own subdialect (e.g. Hainanese, Hing Hua) and prefer to speak the lingua franca in each region.
Klang, Malacca and Johor groups are also predominantly Hokkien-speaking but the variant spoken is Southern Malaysian Hokkien, which has a similar accent to Singaporean Hokkien. Thus, Sarawak Chinese speak their own accent of Hokkien in various places in Kuching.
Hakka, specifically the Huiyang (惠阳, Hakka: Fui Yong) variant, is the main Chinese dialect in the East Malaysian state of Sabah. According to the 1991 census, 113,000 Sabahans identified themselves as being of Hakka descent. This is a clear majority over the Cantonese, of whom there were 28,000, making them a distant second. This makes Sabah the only state in Malaysia where Hakka is the predominant dialect among the local Chinese.
The Chinese in Ipoh and to a lesser extent the Chinese in certain other parts of Perak, are largely Hakka-speaking at home, but use Cantonese as a lingua franca when doing business and eating out, due in part to the dominance of Cantonese cuisine. This is also true in many other Hakka-populated areas throughout Malaysia, meaning that even in predominantly Hakka areas the language is rarely heard on the streets even though ethnic Hakkas may be a clear majority.
In other regions of Malaysia, there are significant numbers of Hakka people, for example in the town of Miri in Sarawak and in major cities in Peninsular Malaysia. However, many do not speak Hakka due to the stronger influence of Hokkien and Cantonese in Peninsular Malaysia. The variants of Hakka most widely spoken in Malaysian states other than Sabah are the Ho Poh and Moiyan (Meixian) variants, which are very seldom spoken in Sabah itself.
The Chinese population in the central region of Peninsular Malaysia, including Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, Subang Jaya, Seremban, Ipoh & Kuantan are predominantly Cantonese speakers. The dialect is also the lingua franca in Kuala Lumpur's Chinese community. Cantonese is also the main dialect in Sandakan. The only district dominated by Cantonese dialect in Johor is Mersing.
Many Chinese of other dialect subgroups are able to understand and/or speak Cantonese at various levels due to the influence of movies and television programs from Hong Kong, which are aired on the local cinemas, on the TVB and various Cantonese language based channels through the Astro pay television service.
Mandarin is the medium of instruction in Chinese-medium schools in Malaysia. As such, Malaysian Chinese throughout Malaysia who attended Chinese-medium schools understand and speak Mandarin. Many Chinese-educated Malaysian Chinese families have taken to speaking Mandarin with their children due to the notion that other Chinese dialects are growing increasingly redundant in an era where Mandarin is increasing in importance. This has led to the emergence of a community of young Chinese who are fluent in Mandarin but unable to speak their native Chinese dialect, understand but do not speak it, or prefer not to speak it in public.
As a result of influence from the Mandarin-dominant media from Singapore and proximity of Johor to Singapore (Johor and parts of Malacca are able to receive Singapore's free-to-air TV), southern Peninsular Malaysia, especially Johor, has become predominantly Mandarin-speaking.
A significant number of Malaysian Chinese educated entirely in English prefer to speak in English mixed with a smattering of Chinese words as they are not fluent in any Chinese dialects. This is often referred to as Manglish. The older generation Baba/Nyonya were only fluent in Malay mixed with a smattering of Hokkien words.
Malaysian Chinese can be categorised to be educated in three different streams of education: English-educated, Chinese-educated and Malay-educated. Most of the Malaysian Chinese of older generations are English-educated. Chinese-educated Malaysians are those who attend Chinese schools, those who can at least read Chinese simplified characters. The rest (about 10% or more of the Malaysian Chinese children) who attend Malay-language national-type schools are Malay-educated, these people can understand very little Chinese. However, due to the rise of China and the increasing usage of Chinese language worldwide, majority (not all) of the Malay or English educated Malaysian Chinese start to learn Mandarin Chinese after finishing their tertiary education.
Public education in Malaysia is free. There are two types of public schools at the primary level: the Malay-medium National schools and the non-Malay-medium National-type schools. National-type schools are subdivided into Chinese-medium and Tamil-medium schools. At the secondary level, a big group of the Malaysian Chinese attend either the Chinese national-type schools like Jit Sin High School, Heng Ee High School and Catholic High School, Malaysia or the Chinese independent high schools like Foon Yew High School and Sabah Tshung Tsin Secondary School, where all, if not 90% of the students, are Chinese, after attending the Chinese primary schools; the rest attend national secondary schools.
In all schools, Malay or Bahasa Malaysia (the national language) and English are compulsory subjects. In Chinese schools, Mandarin Chinese is a compulsory subject for all students with Chinese primary school background. By law, primary education is compulsory. Malaysian Chinese citizens can choose to attend any school regardless of medium of instruction, although virtually none choose to attend Tamil-medium schools due to cultural differences. Those who attend Malay national schools speak very little Mandarin Chinese though most are able to converse in Chinese dialects like Hokkien and Cantonese.
At the tertiary level, most Bachelor's degree courses offered at public universities are taught in the national language, that is, Malay, while post-graduate studies are usually conducted in English. English is used as the primary medium of instruction at most private higher educational institutions.
Today, about 90% (a guesstimate, could be lower) of Malaysian Chinese children in Malaysia go to Mandarin-medium primary schools, while only a small group of 10% (or more) attend Malay-medium primary schools. Majority of the Malaysian Chinese switch to Malay-medium schools for their secondary education. The reason is that Malay-medium secondary schools are free while Chinese independent high schools are not. The switch from Mandarin-medium primary school to Malay-medium secondary school for the majority of Malaysian Chinese has resulted in many school drop-outs as students are unable to cope with the differences in the medium of instruction. The Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) pointed out an estimated 25% of Chinese students drop out before reaching the age of 18; the annual drop-out rate is estimated to be over 100,000 and worsening. Certain drop-outs become apprentices in workshops, picking up skills like plumbing or motor repair. Others eager to make a quick buck find themselves involved in illicit trades, such as peddling pirated DVDs or collecting debts for loan sharks. However in October 2011, Deputy Education Minister Wee Ka Siong indicated that the 25% drop-out rate may not be accurate as many Chinese students choose to pursue their studies at private schools (including Chinese independent high schools) or overseas such as in Singapore, while the Malaysian government only collates student data from the national school system, giving a false impression of a high drop-out rate.
During the colonial period and for years after independence, English schools originally established by the British colonial government were regarded as more prestigious than the different vernacular schools. As a result, a significant number of older Malaysian Chinese who attended school before the 1970s are English-educated. Beginning in the 1970s, English-medium teaching were gradually replaced with Malay-medium teaching in English national-type schools, which became Malay-medium national schools. Since then, most English-educated parents send their children to Chinese primary schools while a few choose to send their children to Malay-medium national schools. Those who went to national schools would be known as Malay-educated Chinese.
The eventual objective of making Malay the main medium of instruction in schools as stated in the Razak Report (the fundamental report for the education policy of Malaysia), along with the assimilation of English national-type schools into Malay national schools, had led to Chinese education groups being vigorously protective of the Chinese education system in Malaysia. In 2003 to 2011, the Malaysian government introduced an experimental policy of using English as the language of instruction for science and mathematics at primary and secondary schools. The decision sparked concerns and protests among Chinese education groups. A compromise was reached that Chinese primary schools would teach science and mathematics in both Chinese and English. In July 2009, the education minister announced that the medium of instruction for science and mathematics would revert to the original languages of instruction starting from 2012.
Before Mandarin gained popularity among Malaysian Chinese in the late 20th century, Malaysian Chinese romanised their names according to the their respective Chinese dialects. For example, the Hakka name 叶亚来 would be written "Yap Ah Loy", and the Hokkien name 林梧桐 would be written as "Lim Goh Tong".
In line with the rise of Mandarin as a lingua franca among Malaysian Chinese in the later half of the 20th century, younger Malaysian Chinese tend to retain the dialect pronunciation of their surname while using the Mandarin pronunciation for the given name.
Still more recently, the given name will be written in the official pinyin romanisation, although often retaining the Malaysian Chinese tendency to treat each character as a separate word. Chan Yung Choong might start writing his name as Chan Yong Cong.
Some people do not adhere strictly to particular pronunciations and choose to modify the spelling. For example, a Mandarin pronunciation of a name can be "Chen", but some people like to spell it differently, like "Chern".
Some Malaysian Chinese also adopt an English given name. English given names are normally written before the Chinese name. For example, 杨紫琼 goes by the name Michelle Yeoh Choo Kheng. Popular English names among Malaysian Chinese include Sue Ann, Nellie, Mark, and Paul among many others.
Non-Muslims who marry a Muslim in Malaysia must convert to Islam. Such converts normally adopt a Muslim name to use in addition to their original name. These are not usually the long Arabic names but just a shorter one – e.g., Abdullah Tan Yew Leong.
The majority of the Chinese Malaysians identify themselves Buddhists, Taoists or practitioners of the Chinese folk religion and ancestor worship. Chinese Buddhism, brought over from China, has been traditionally embraced by Chinese and handed down over the generations in Malaysia. Buddhist Chinese have also been known to visit and pray in Hindu temples, and even participate in Thaipusam.
The political scene in Malaysia is strongly divided along racial lines, with people of different ethnic origin generally supporting politicians of their own racial origin. The Chinese population is represented in the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional mainly by the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), although the support for the party among the Malaysia Chinese varies and at times weak. A smaller number support Gerakan, other Chinese-dominated parties in the coalition include Sarawak United Peoples' Party. A large number of Malaysian Chinese support the opposition Democratic Action Party which is particularly strong in the Chinese urban areas of Penang, Kuala Lumpur, Perak, Selangor, Johor and Negeri Sembilan. There are however recent attempts at multiracial approach to politics with Keadilan.
Relatively many Chinese Malaysian students in each cohort obtain at least five ‘O’ level passes, enabling them to progress to higher education. The proportion has increased steadily from 44% in 1980 to 84% in 2005 compared to a national average of 81% and was the highest out of the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia. Similarly, the proportion of Chinese Malaysian ‘A’ level students who obtained at least two ‘A’ and two ‘AO’ level passes in the GCE ‘A’ Level examination (including General Paper) has increased from 68% in 1980 to 92% in 2005 compared to a national average of 91% and was the highest out of the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia. The proportion of a Chinese P1 cohort admitted to post-secondary institutions (Institutes of Technical Education, Polytechnics, Junior Colleges/Centralised Institutes) has more than doubled, from 65% in 1990 to 96% in 2005. In addition, the proportion of Chinese P1 cohort entering local publicly funded tertiary institutions (polytechnics or universities) has increased from 13% in 1980 to 69% in 2005. Both percentages were above the national average and were the highest out of the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia. The number of Chinese Malaysian primary school drop-outs has decreased steadily over the years. Out of every 1,000 Malay primary school students, there were just 0.1 Chinese Malaysian drop-outs in 2005, compared to 0.3 nationally.
Overall ethnic share of total employment in Malaysia is roughly proportionate to the number of Chinese in the Malaysian population. The Chinese are more likely to be involved in commerce and the modern sectors of the Malaysian economy. Between 1970 to 1995, Malaysian Chinese share of the white-collar labour force fell from 62.9% to 54.7% in the administrative and managerial category.
Malaysian Chinese have a large presence in many skilled occupations that is disproportionate to that of the Malaysian population. Despite comprising nearly a quarter of the Malaysian population, 54.7% of Malaysian Chinese work in administrative and managerial jobs, while their presence in professional and technical fields was proportionate to the percentage of Chinese in the Malaysian population. In 1988, Chinese Malaysians made up 58% of the Malaysian white-collar workforce, providing a disproportionate percentage of Malaysia's doctors, lawyers, veterinarians, accountants, and engineers well exceeding their respective population ratios compared to Bumiputera. Ethnic Chinese are estimated to comprise the bulk of Malaysia's professional and educated class, as well as accounting for 61% of private-sector administrative and managerial positions.
According to a February 2011 study, in 2008, 46.2% of Chinese Malaysians worked as registered professionals compared to 41.2% for Bumiputera. Chinese Malaysian participation in the white-collar labour force showed a significant decrease from 61.0% in 1970 to just 48.7% in 2005 but the overall 2008 figure remained the highest registration percentage among all major ethnic groups in Malaysia.
Ethnic Chinese are estimated to control 60% of Malaysia's national income. As a result, they are the biggest taxpayers among all ethnic groups in the country. Chinese Malaysians also contribute almost 90 percent of the country's income tax. While the national home ownership rate in Malaysia was 91.7% in 2005, 92.9% of Chinese Malaysian households owned the home they lived in, the second highest home-ownership rate after the Malaysian Malays. In terms of housing affordability, Chinese Malaysians could afford houses priced between 120,000 RM and 180,000 RM.
In 2002, Chinese Malaysians had the lowest poverty rates among major ethnic groups in Malaysia, with a rate of 1.5% compared with the Bumiputera rate of 7.3%. For the Malaysian Chinese community, the mean income rose from 394 RM in 1970 to 4,279 RM in 2002, a figure that was an increase of 90.8% and was 80.0% above Bumiputera (2,376 RM) and 40.5% above Malaysian Indians. In 2005, Chinese Malaysian household income remained the highest out of all three major ethnic groups in Malaysia, with a monthly household income of 4,570 RM compared to the monthly national average of 4,320 RM. Income distributions show dramatic differences among the three main ethnic groups in Peninsular Malaysia (Malays, Chinese, and Indians) and between the rural and urban subgroups. Chinese incomes are larger, on the average or median, and are more unequally distributed than those of Malays or Indians. However, because relatively more of Chinese income is received from market activities, broadening the definition of income reduces the relative difference between Chinese households and the other two ethnic groups. Since the distribution of Chinese income is more highly skewed than that of Malays, Chinese income is 177% higher than Malay income. Mean Chinese business income is almost five times as large as mean Malay business income, but median business income for Malay households exceeds median Chinese business income from business ventures. Malaysian Chinese have the highest household income among the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia. According to Sulaiman Mahbob, as of December 2007, the monthly average household income was at 4,437 ringgit.
Since early settlement during the 15th century, Chinese Malaysians are considered one of the wealthiest ethnic groups in Malaysia and have been more prosperous than other ethnic communities in Malaysia. In February 2001, Malaysian Business released its list of the 20 richest Malaysians. Sixteen of the 20 and 9 of the top 10 were ethnic Chinese. A number of other wealthy Chinese outside the top 20 also control well-managed corporations. According to a 2011 Forbes magazine list, eight out of the top ten richest Malaysians are ethnic Chinese. According to economic data compiled by the Malaysian daily Nanyang Siang Pau in 2012, ethnic Chinese make up 80 percent of Malaysia's top 40 richest people. In 2014, Forbes Magazine reported that 8 out of 10 of the ten richest person in Malaysia are ethnic Chinese.
Trade and industry
Chinese Malaysians played a major role in the development of the tin, petroleum, and rubber industries and also continue to own 85 percent of Malaysian retail outlets. Chinese-owned mines produced nearly two-thirds of the tin in Malaysia. Many used their savings to open small businesses, where some grew into large enterprises. Typically, many of their enterprises have been family-controlled and family-run. In 1964, Sino-Malaysians accounted for 91.7% of the private corporate holdings in Malaysia and ownership of the Malaysian gravel pump and small-scale tin mines were completely placed in the hands of ethnic Chinese entrepreneurs. By 1970, glaring economic disparity between the Malays and Chinese was wide as Malaysian Chinese entrepreneurs were estimated to control 26% of the assets in the corporate sector, 26.2% of the manufacturing and 92.2% of the non-corporate sector. Malaysian Chinese entrepreneurs operate as a more urban business community, dominating trade and commerce, primarily tin mining and agriculture. They are also dominant in both business and commerce sectors in Malaysia, where 70 percent of publicly listed companies were under Chinese ownership. Chinese in Malaysia are estimated to control 50% of the construction sector, 82% of wholesale trade, 58% of retail trade, 40% of the manufacturing sector, and 70% of the small-scale enterprises. In 2002, the Chinese Malaysian share of the overall Malaysian economy stood at 40% since the implementation of the Malaysian New Economic Policy and the Chinese share in the non-agricultural sector fell from 51.3% to 45.9% from 1970 to 1980. Despite efforts to reduce the share of Chinese entrepreneurial dominance, the overall Chinese share of the Malaysian economy increased to 60% in 2008. Chinese Malaysian businessmen are estimated to occupy 34.9% of Malaysia's LLC companies, the highest percentage of ownership among the 3 major ethnic groups in Malaysia. To seek extra funding and seed money for potential business start-ups, many Malaysian Chinese entrepreneurs have turned to the Malaysian Stock Exchange for business expansion and potential IPOs. Chinese Malaysians are estimated to control 62% percent of the stock market. In 1995, the seven biggest investors in the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange were all ethnic Chinese, with 90 percent of the smaller and younger companies on the second exchange of the KLSE are also Chinese controlled. Malaysian Chinese businesses are part of the larger bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.
Home ownership and the utilisation of property as an investment is also prevalent in the Malaysian Chinese community. Real estate investing is a common business and a source of wealth for Malaysian Chinese as it not only provides a steady source of monthly income from rental proceeds and a hedge against inflation, but also raises the standard of living for Malaysians who are not in the right economic position to purchase a home for themselves. In 2005, Malaysian Chinese owned 69.4% of the business complexes, 71.9% of all commercial and industrial real estate, as well as 69.3% of all the hotels in Malaysia, reflecting Chinese control over the various business and commercial establishments around the nation.
However, the underprivileged section of the Malaysian Chinese continue to be excluded from affirmative-action programmes despite their genuine need for support in obtaining employment, government subsidised education, and housing. This perception of a zero-sum game amongst the races has unfortunately fuelled protests by frustrated sections of the hitherto quiescent community – who consequently faced a heavy-handed response from the authorities. Recently, the Malaysian government has at least pledged to change this by increasing assistance to needy Malaysians regardless of race, creed, or national origin.
Malaysian Chinese eat all types of food, including Chinese, Indian, Malay and Western cuisines. Few Malaysian Chinese are vegetarians, and those who do are usually devout adherents of Buddhism. Malaysian Chinese food contains similarities and differences with the Chinese food in China.
A number of traditional Chinese dishes have been developed, either by the use of local ingredients or through fresh invention, into local speciality. For example, there are local inventions such as Loh Mee (滷面), thick noodles in clear gravy (in the Klang Valley) and dark gravy (in Penang). Bak Kut Teh (肉骨茶) originated from Klang and not China. Street food such as char kway teow and Hainanese chicken rice commonly found in Malaysia and Singapore are distinctive to the region. During Chinese New Year, Malaysian Chinese will also eat Yusheng which was developed mainly in Kuala Lumpur.
The confluence of different cultures in Malaysia have produced food which showed elements from the different communities. Influences from the spicy Malay cuisine can be found in local inventions such as Curry Mee, Curry Chicken and Chili Crab. A particular well-known Malay-Chinese fusion cuisine is the food of the Nonya or Peranakan. The influence of the Peranakan cuisine can be found in dishes such as Laksa and Mee Siam.
The Chinese in Malaysia maintain a distinct communal identity and rarely intermarry with Muslim Malays for religious and cultural reasons. According to Muslim laws, the Chinese partner would be required by law to renounce their religion and adopt the Muslim religion. Most Malaysian Chinese consider their being "Chinese" at once an ethnic, cultural and political identity.
However, there are many who have intermarried with Malaysian Indians, who are predominantly Hindu. The children of such marriages are known as Chindians. Chindians tend to speak English as their mother tongue.
In the Bornean states of Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysians of mixed Chinese–Native parentage ("Native" referring to the indigenous tribes in those states; for example, Iban and Melanau in Sarawak and Kadazan and Murut in Sabah) are referred to as "Sino" (e.g., Sino–Iban, Sino–Kadazan). Depending entirely on their upbringing, they follow either native customs or Chinese traditions. A small minority forgo both native and Chinese traditions, instead opting for a sort of cultural anonymity by speaking only English and/or Malay and not practising either Chinese or tribal customs. Offspring of such an intermarriage may or may not be considered Native, and those granted Native status may also have the status revoked at any time, as seen by the Sabah state government revoking the Native certificate of state opposition leader Jimmy Wong Sze Phin despite his grandmother being a native.
Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) responsibility for “safeguard[ing] the special position of the ‘Malays’ and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities” and goes on to specify ways to do this, such as establishing quotas for entry into the civil service, public scholarships and public education.
Partly in line with the constitution, Malaysia has devised a long-standing policy of providing affirmative action to Bumiputeras (ethnic Malays and indigenous people of East Malaysia) which spans over four decades. Affirmative action is provided in the form of the Malaysian New Economic Policy or what is now known as the National Development Policy Under such affirmative action, various concessions are made to Bumiputeras. Amongst many other concessions, 70% of seats in public universities are to be allocated to Bumiputeras, all initial public offerings (IPOs) must set aside a 30% share for Bumiputera investors and monetary support is provided to Bumiputeras for entrepreneurial development.
Notable Malaysian Chinese
Among emigrants, Chinese Malaysians form the largest outflow or brain drain amongst all ethnic groups in Malaysia. It is forecast that the proportion of Malaysian Chinese in Malaysia's total population will fall from 45% in 1957 to 18.6% in 2035 if current trends continue. The economic rise of People's Republic of China has made it an attractive destination for many Malaysian Chinese. However, the bulk of Malaysian Chinese who emigrate head for Western countries such as Australia, the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Canada and Europe. A smaller number migrate to other countries within the region such as Singapore, particularly for work purposes.
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