The Chinese in Malaysia

Evolving Identity in a Globalizing Environment and in Nation Building

Researchers: Ling Tek Soon Wong Seet Leng Wang Xiao Mei Thock Ker Pong Lee Kam Hing Fan Pik ShyFan Pik Wah Ching Thing Ho Cheong Kee Cheok Lee Poh Ping Danny Wong Tze Ken Ding Seong LinNgeow Chow Bing Ngu Ik Tien Teoh Hooi See Wong Chan Yuan Ng Kwan-Hoong

Duration: 01 Jan 2013 - 31 Dec 2015

Objectives of the Research      

More than just knowledge-creation this project addresses a few pressing and practical needs. For this, the project will focus on the following objectives: 

1) To study the institutions that are important to  the evolving identity of the Malaysian Chinese. We list these institutions as (a) the Chinese clan and associations (huiguan and shetuan),(b) Chinese media, and (c) Chinese education. What is their relationship to one another, with the community, and with the nation at large?

2) To study the forces that may be shaping the Chinese today. We identify them as

  (a) growing globalization,

  (b) the rise of Chinese as a world economic power,

  (c) the development of communication technology, and

  (d) the role of the state.

  How has each of these or a combination impacted on the Chinese?

3) To map out the shifting and changing Chinese sub-groups such as those associated with dialects and to predict how the community would look like in the near future. For instance, as Mandarin is becoming a more popular and common language, partly due to the rise of China, there is a decline of some dialect use here in Malaysia. These trend could also be seen in other ethnic groups here and elsewhere when the  cultural features of the dominant groups begin superseding the smaller or weaker ones. Some comparative analysis is possible here.

4) To investigate the  neglected area of diversity within an ethnic community. So far much discussion is on ethnic diversity in the nation. But there is the persistent ethnic stereotyping within a multi-ethnic society, with ethnic groups seen or depicted  as homogenous entities. In fact there are significant differences and cleavages within each ethnic group and these are evolving and transforming even as these sub-groups within each ethnic community interact among themselves and with the larger society. How significant are these sub-groups to an evolving identity of the community or to the larger inter-ethnic relations. How serious a problem is there when each community  lack an understanding of the other’s distinctiveness.

5)To determine the extent to which politics is a process of ethnic mobilization.

6)To explain the complexities of a larger Malaysian society as a first step is to embark on a critical and scholarly examination of the evolving features of each ethnic group’s identity. In particular, given that the forces of globalization and of technological change are fast re-shaping the local and regional environment there is urgency and need to know what the impact has been, on the Chinese community, 

8 sub-projects

•G1: Emergence of an Intellectual Tradition of Malaysian Chinese 

•G2:The Political History of the Chinese

•G3:Science, Technology and Health & Medicine

•G4: Malaysian Chinese Identity Consolidation and Human Capital Development: Surveying the Role of Chinese Education 

•G5: Language Planning for the Malaysian Chinese Community 

•G6: Cultural Identity: Localization and Globalization

•G7: Embracing The Nation And Its Changes In Mahua Literature 

•G8: Malaysian Chinese Political Economy in a Time of Change

8 sub-projects - External Collaborators


•Professor Wu Xiaoan (Peking University, China) WXA

•Emeritus Professor Claudine Salmon (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris) CS

•Dr. Rachel Leow (Cambridge)RL

•To Be Recruited


•Emeritus Professor Wang Gungwu (Chairman, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore) WGW

•Professor Leo Suryadinata (Chinese Heritage Centre, Nanyang Technological University) LS

•Professor Wu Xiaoan (Peking University) WXA


•Dr. Adam Tyson (University of Leeds)AT


•Professor  Dr. Zhang Jijiao (Vice Director of Department of Socio-Cultural Anthropology, The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) ZJJ


•Dr. Zhou Minglang (Maryland University, USA) ZML


•Professor Chang Weian (National TsingHua University, Taiwan) CWA

•Emeritus Professor Claudine Salmon (Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris) CS

•Professor Tan Chee Beng (Chinese University Of Hong Kong) TCB


•Professor NieZhenzhao (Central China Normal University, China) NZZ

•Professor Su Hui (Chief Editor and Deputy Chief Editor of Journal of Foreign Literature Studies) SH


•Professor Wang Gungwu (East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore) WGW

•Dr. Wong Yee Tuan (Penang Institute) WYT

•To be Recruited

Expected Output

•Official HIR Requirements (Tier 1 ISI Publications)

 2013 - 2

 2014 - 4

 2015 - 7

•MCRC Capacity-Building Efforts (Non-Tier 1 ISI Publications)

 2013 - 5

 2014 - 10

 2015 - 15