NO HOLDS BARRED
Raja Petra Kamarudin
Surprisingly, many Malaysians, in particular those of Chinese ethnicity, have never been to China. And I am not talking about just Hong Kong, Shanghai or Canton. I made ten trips to China during the 1990s just as it was ‘waking up’. Pudong and what at that time was the tallest tower in the world (is it still the tallest?) was still under construction.
I remember telling my wife, Marina, that in about 20 years or so China is going to be the new world economic power. And most likely because of its wealth it is going to be the new military power in Asia or South East Asia as well. China would give new meaning to the name ‘South China Sea’ because China is really going to own that sea (which was why the British never called it the North Malaya Sea).
It is not that I was clairvoyant. I was making trips to China every three months and each time I could not recognise the place. In just three months everything changed so much that I got lost. Last trip there was no flyover and this trip it was a bustling highway, in just three months. It was fascinating.
Anyway, my 1990s ‘prediction’ came true. Today we see young and rich Chinese everywhere, all over the world, when just 20 years ago all I needed to do was to bring a carton of cigarettes or a fistful of United States Dollars and they treated me like royalty (not that I am not, mind you).
Boxing Day sales in the UK are dominated by Chinese. Posh restaurants are full of Chinese. Designer shops are crowded with Chinese. Name a place where the white skins cannot afford to patronise and you will find Chinese everywhere. The Chinese have come a long way since the days of the 1990s when all I needed was a carton of American cigarettes to get treated like a VIP.
When Britain was a great economic power more than 100 years ago Malaysia looked to Europe to do business with. Then America took over and Malaysians sailed to the United States and invited the Americans to do business in Malaysia.
By the 1960s Japan emerged as the new economic power, followed by South Korea and then Taiwan. That was when Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad launched his ‘Look East Policy’ and told us to learn Japanese and asked Malaysians to have five children so that Malaysia’s population can grow to 70 million, just like in Japan (which was 90 million in 1960).
It was very natural that Malaysia would want to do business with successful countries and countries with loads of cash. We would even want to learn their language and send our children to those countries for their education. Mahathir did that as well. What used to be Europe became America and then became Japan/Korea/Taiwan. And now that new economic power is China.
So you would be silly to come to Manchester to try to attract investors from here to pour US$100 billion into Malaysia. In fact, even Manchester is begging the Chinese to come put their money in this city. And guess who owns Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs? All bloody foreigners!