Malaysia is known to have a diverse culture filled with people from different races and religions. One of the main reasons for Malaysia’s diversity can be traced back to its history with the British occupation and Chinese migration.
While the majority of the country is filled with native Malaysians, you can also find Chinese, Indians, and other nationalities, including the expats living with the locals. This has been the norm ever since, which is why the locals are so welcoming toward tourists.
Another reason for the cultural diversity in Malaysia is that it has been where major civilizations met for centuries. This can be seen in many ways, such as the language Malaysians speak, the different influences in its traditional cuisine, and how people interact with one another.
What’s the history behind Malaysia’s diversity?
Tanah Melayu, which translates to “Malay Land,” was the former name of Malaysia. Because of its central location, “Tanah Melayu” was historically one of the most important sites for trade in Asia.
While Tanah Melayu (Ancient Malaysia) was under British colonial rule, the economic agenda had a significant impact on the race division. Natural resources were abundant in Tanah Melayu, and the British saw a chance to take control of them.
Chinese immigrants from China were the British’s answer to the problem of locating inexpensive and mass labor to work in the mining sector. This was especially notable in the tin ore industry, which was rich in Kuala Lumpur then.
The Chinese saw this as a chance to travel to Tanah Melayu as laborers, as their expertise was fairly advanced at the time. However, they greatly excelled in creating economic connections with the residents of Tanah Melayu, which led them to have a bigger presence in Malaysia.
The Indians, which included Indians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis, and Sri Lankans, were hired to operate on estates and plantations that produced palm oil and rubber. Even after the British left Tanah Melayu, these two commodities performed well and helped Malaysia’s economy.
Because of this, the Malaysian community has grown its culture which has evolved over time to include influences from many different ethnic groups that have been a part of it for centuries now.
How did Malaysia’s diversity influence its economy?
Since 1970, Malaysia’s economy has evolved from being heavily dependent on the export of raw commodities (rubber and tin) to becoming one of the most robust, diversified, and rapidly expanding in Southeast Asia.
A big factor in this is the importing of laborers as Malaysia is one of the greatest suppliers of commercial hardwoods in the world, a significant producer of rubber and palm oil, and a significant exporter of petroleum and natural gas.
Production of rubber is still significant and strongly related to the domestic industry. Since the 1970s, palm oil plantations have grown significantly, in part at the expense of rubber plantations.
Malaysia had gained a reputation as one of the world’s top palm oil producers by the early twenty-first century. And a huge part of its success was the help of people of other nationalities, mainly from India and China when it comes to the agricultural sector.
Currently, Agriculture only makes up 7% of the country’s economy, which was once reliant on tin, rubber, palm oil, and other agricultural products (with industry making up 37% and services making up 56%).
In addition to the agricultural sector, the GDP per capita has also increased drastically. With a population that has doubled in 30 years and an average income per capita of $10,073 (IMF data 2015), Malaysia is currently ahead of Turkey and Mexico and just above the global average.
Why are there a lot of Chinese Malaysians?
The business sector of the Malaysian economy has historically been dominated by Malaysian Chinese compared to today. In fact, most are descended from Southern China immigrants who came to Malaysia between the early 19th century and the middle of the 20th century.
There was even a time when the Chinese occupied 38% of the country’s population, specifically from 1957 onwards. This was also when the Chinese greatly influenced the commercial economy through businesses and agriculture.
There are three subgroups that speak distinct dialects of the Chinese language in Malaysia.
First is the Hokkien subgroup, which primarily resides on the northern island of Penang. Second is the Mandarin-speaking subgroup, primarily living in the southern state of Johor.
Last is the Cantonese subgroup, whose members mainly reside in the nation’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
About 90% of all stores, banks, and industries in Kuala Lumpur were owned by Chinese people in the 1970s. Until now, Chinese businesspeople continue to own a sizable portion of the city’s commercial firms.
Despite their participation in a wide range of occupations, Chinese economic activity has always been centered on commerce and, originally, mining. As a result, the majority of employees at Chinese-managed businesses used to be Chinese, but this is less common today.
FAQs about Diversity in Malaysia
Why is Malaysia so diverse?
Malaysia has been the central point of several civilizations for hundreds of years. Malacca has served as the best path for anyone wishing to travel further east, which is the main explanation for this.
Because of this, the Malaysian community is made up of a culture that has evolved over time to include elements from many different ethnic groups.
What makes Malaysia different from other countries?
Malaysia is a fascinating place with interesting people, a wide variety of attractions, and a huge variety of food traditions from its three main cultures: the Malays, Chinese, and Indians. The national dish, Nasi Lemak, is one of the standout delicacies and a must-try when visiting.
Are Chinese people common in Malaysia?
Chinese citizens make up 23% of Malaysia’s population, making them the nation’s second-largest ethnic group after the Malay majority. The second-largest overseas Chinese community in the world is composed of Malaysian Chinese.
What is Malaysia known for in the world?
Malaysia is well-known not only for its busy capital city, diverse culture, and fascinating cultural heritage but also for its breathtaking coastal regions. This nation in Southeast Asia is made up of an incredible 99 islands and is encircled by sea.