Future for Chinese in Malaysia , Interesting Stats
By Helen Ang (CPI Asia)
The sharp reduction of Chinese as a population ratio is contrary to natural growth patterns and an
anomaly due to institutionalized discrimination. The present Chinese condition requires them to speak
better BM to fit in.
No greater love hath man and moms than they lay down their life savings for their children to study
overseas and emigrate. Between March 2008 and August 2009, some 50,000 students sailed from our
shores, Deputy Foreign Minister A. Kohilan Pillay told Parliament last week. The Star speculates that
many will not return. Star editor Wong Sai Wan wrote: “… some even admitted that they had already
applied for their PR visas”.
They are among 304,358 persons registered with Malaysia ’s representative
offices abroad over the past 18 months. A review of statistics will help us to
interpret this unique Made-in-Malaysia export of roughly 17,000 units of
human capital on average a month. Among the ethnic groups in Malaysia ,
the Chinese are the largest outflow and also experiencing the biggest change
Proportion of Chinese in Malaysia total population
1957 45..0 +
2010 22.6 *
2035 18.6 **
Decimal point is approximate.
* Projection by Department of Statistics.
** Projection in The Population of Malaysia (ISEAS)
In the 80s decade, the Chinese had a negative net migration rate of -10.6 percent. “Between 1980 and
1991, the [Chinese] migration deficit was estimated at 391,801 persons as against a national increase of
777,339 persons,” statistician Tey Nai Peng found in his study.
Chinese annual growth rate also showed a consistent drop, recording only 53 percent between 1990 and
2000 during a period when the national population grew 123 percent.
Tey said in his paper ‘Causes and consequences of demographic change in the Chinese community in
Malaysia ’ that “the fertility of the Chinese declined from 4.6 children to 2.5 children between 1970 and
1997”. Comparatively, total fertility rate for Malays in 1987 remained a high 4.51.
Changes in the states
It is no longer true that Penang is a Chinese majority state. In 2010, Malays in Penang are projected to be
670,128 persons – outnumbering Chinese at 658,661. Between 1991 and 2000, Penang had an average
annual growth rate of 1.8 percent but Penang Chinese only 0.7 percent.
Perak has significant numbers of Chinese but still, Chinese registered a negative growth of -1.0 percent in
1991-2000 whereas the average annual rate of Perak population growth was a positive 0.4 percent.
The Department of Statistics records that in the 1990s, Chinese fell in number in Kelantan, Terengganu
and Perlis too. In Malacca, Negri Sembilan and Pahang, Chinese were practically stagnant.
In Sabah , Chinese were 23 percent of the population in 1960 but shrunk to 10.1 percent in 2000. “In
contrast, recent immigrants and refugees, with a population of 614,824 persons in 2000, form close to a
quarter of the total population, or more than twice the size of the long-settled Chinese community,” writes
Danny Wong Tze-Ken in his paper ‘The Chinese population in Sabah ’.
The situation in Sabah is largely a result of ‘Project M’ giving Indonesians and Muslim Filipinos
Malaysian ICs. Overall, the abnormality of a shrinking Chinese population ratio can be traced to
government policies that actively discriminate against this community.
Small families, ageing parents
By year 2000, Chinese were mainly concentrated in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor. The Klang Valley
accounted for 38 percent of all Chinese in the Peninsula . Nine out of 10 Chinese today are found in urban
areas, concentrated in the major cities.
In the dozen years between 1980 and 1991 when the Malaysian population increase nationally was
4,634,500 persons, Chinese increase was only 530,400 persons. Or looking at it another way (as indicated
in table below), the Chinese are merely doubling in absolute numbers when the population will have
Numbers of Chinese in Malaysia
Year Chinese Total population
1970 3.6 10.5
1980 4.4 13.7
1991 4.9 18.4
2000 5.7 23.3
2010 6.5 28.9 *
2035 7.7 41.1 **
* Projection by Department of Statistics.
** Projection in The Population of Malaysia (ISEAS)
It is conspicuous that among the younger age cohorts, Chinese are an even smaller proportion of the
national average. On the other hand, among the elderly [60 years and above], Chinese constitute 5.4
percent of the population, as against the national average of 5 percent.
Among the ethnic groups in Malaysia , Chinese have the highest proportion of the elderly. “It is found
that most of the ‘clients’ in nursing homes are the Chinese,” observes researcher Philip Poi Jun Hua in his
essay 'Ageing among the Chinese in Malaysia : Some trends and issues'.
This situation affecting the Chinese community, with parents either in nursing homes or ‘home alone’ in
Malaysia whilst the children are abroad has ironically come about due to education as a main contributory
“The Chinese community places great emphasis on education but the escalation in the cost of acquiring an
education might have compelled young couples to limit their family size,” surmises Tey. Because
educated Chinese women are in the workforce as well as limiting themselves to only one or two children,
Chinese couples have more money to spend on each child’s education.
This is in a way a lose-lose scenario because the couple would then tend to over-protect the single
offspring – do recall China’s one-child policy outcome of producing Little Emperors – and the well-
educated child is more likely to emigrate.
Self-interest versus community concerns
“All my friends plan to leave Malaysia ,” a private student in the offshore campus of a premier Australian
university in KL declared to me just a couple of months ago.
These youths have cogently articulated why they intend to vote with their feet. Aside from the various
reasons we’re all familiar with, I’d like to introduce here the theory of ‘placelessness’ which Lee Boon
Thong links to the Chinese condition.
In his paper ‘Placelessness: A study of residential neighborhood quality among Chinese communities in
Malaysia ’, Lee observes that Chinese in cities have subordinated neighborliness and personal ties to the
pursuit of personal advancement.
The move to new urban and suburban residential neighborhoods – where availability of Chinese food and
access to shopping malls are often major considerations – is accompanied by other shifts, among them the
increasing “technopolistic grip” [orientation towards digital entertainment] and losing some of their
traditions [e.g. ancestral worship], especially if they convert to Christianity or Islam.
These shifts have the effect of loosening bonds to an old hometown – witness Chin Peng’s strong
attachment for Sitiawan as a contrary example – because the young generation has become city born and
Lee describes the new society resulting from intense urbanization as one breeding individuals who are
more self-centered, more covetous, less considerate and kiasu to boot. “Self-interest overrides almost
everything else that concerns the welfare of the community.”
He also says that if the trend persists of residents in emerging neighborhoods failing to develop ties that
bind and a sufficient sense of commonness in community life, then “urban Chinese are at risk in
producing a pseudo-progressive society that appears to be outwardly prosperous through its middle-class
façade but in effect lacking social coherence and a sense of shared ‘placeness’ for the neighborhood”.
Commonality as militating factor
Further aggravating this estrangement is a social milieu that is changed, parallel to the pronounced
changes in demography. It is projected that while the annual growth of Bumiputera in the next decade
(2011-2021) will be 1.98 percent, the corresponding growth of Chinese will be 0.73 percent.
Saw Swee Hock in his 2007 ISEAS paper ‘The Population of Malaysia’ projects that by year 2035,
Malaysia will have a population of 41 million, 72.1 percent of them Bumiputera. By then Islam would
have stamped a thorough dominance on the physical and moral landscape of the country.
Concomitant to this development is the fact that in the mainstream of all spheres of life and particularly
official domains, the predominant speech community will be Malay.
This fait accompli of demography dictates that the minorities have to be adept in the Malay/national
language for any meaningful integration to occur. Otherwise, to borrow a turn of phrase from Lee, they
will be living in “proximity without propinquity” or in other words, have trouble relating to the majority.
It is thus necessary that next generation Chinese be effectively multilingual and able to ‘code switch’, i.e.
use different varieties of language in different social settings. If Chinese are unable create a
connectedness especially across ethnic lines, this shortcoming would just be adding another factor to the
myriad push factors driving young Chinese away.
The statistics tell a very sobering story. In another short 25 years, Chinese will only be a mere 18.6
percent of the population. They will soon fall below the sustainable threshold for propagating their culture,
and their diminishing numbers will only increase the pressure for assimilation – something Chinese are
reluctant to do.
Let us recall Lee’s description how “[i]n a sense, ‘placeness’ may be defined in terms of ‘belonging to a
residential neighborhood that demands a reciprocity of identity in terms of behavioral or interactive
response. The lack of such may be termed as ‘placelessness’.”
Neighborhoods today are increasingly Malay, and one of the largest is Shah Alam where the authorities
have disallowed the building of a Catholic church, tried to restrict the sale of beer, made it very difficult
to own a dog, and residents protested against a proposed Hindu temple.
To extrapolate Lee’s allusion of ‘placeness’ to a wider national context, we can infer that having a poor
facility in Bahasa Melayu would only compound the Chinese placelessness in a country that has purpose-
built for one race such a locality as Shah Alam, and one that will in future be dotted with more mini Shah
This list is a common knowledge to a lot of Malaysians, especially those non-Malays (Chinese, Ibans,
Kadazans, Orang Asli, Tamils, etc.) who have been racially discriminated against.
Figures in this list are merely estimates, so please take it as a guide only. The government of Malaysia has
the most correct figures. This list covers a period of about 48 years since independence (1957).
List of racial discriminations in Malaysia :
(1) Of the five major banks, only one is multi-racial, the rest are controlled by Malays.
(2) 99% of Petronas directors are Malays.
(3) 3% of Petronas employees are Chinese.
(4) 99% of 2000 Petronas gasoline stations are owned by Malays..
(5) 100% all contractors working under Petronas projects must be of Bumis status.
(6) 0% of non-Malay staff is legally required in Malay companies. But there must be 30%
Malay staffs in Chinese companies.
(7) 5% of all new intake for government police, nurses, army, are non-Malays.
(8) 2% is the present Chinese staff in Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), a drop from
40% in 1960.
(9) 2% is the percentage of non-Malay government servants in Putrajaya, but Malays
make up 98%.
(10) 7% is the percentage of Chinese government servants in the entire government (in
2004); a drop from 30% in 1960.
(11) 95% of government contracts are given to Malays.
(12) 100% all business licensees are controlled by Malay government, e..g. Taxi
permits, Approved permits, etc.
(13) 80% of the Chinese rice millers in Kedah had to be sold to Malay controlled
Bernas in 1980s. Otherwise, life is made difficult for Chinese rice millers.
(14) 100 big companies set up, owned and managed by Chinese Malaysians were taken
over by government, and later managed by Malays since 1970s, e.g. UTC, UMBC,
MISC, Southern Bank etc..
(15) At least 10 Chinese owned bus companies (throughout Malaysia in the past 40
years) had to be sold to MARA or other Malay transport companies due to rejection by
Malay authorities to Chinese applications for bus routes and rejection for their
applications for new buses..
(16) Two Chinese taxi drivers were barred from driving in Johor Larkin bus station.
There are about 30 taxi drivers and three were Chinese in Oct. 2004. Spoiling taxi club
properties was the reason given.
(17) 0 non-Malays are allowed to get shop lots in the new Muar bus station (Nov..
(18) 8000 billion ringgit is the total amount the government channeled to Malay
pockets through ASB, ASN, MARA, privatization of government agencies, Tabung
Haji etc, through NEP over a 34 years period..
(19) 48 Chinese primary schools closed down from 1968 - 2000.
(20) 144 Indian primary schools closed down from 1968 - 2000.
(21) 2637 Malay primary schools built from 1968 - 2000.
(22) 2.5% is government budget for Chinese primary schools. Indian schools got only
1%, Malay schools got 96.5%.
(23) While a Chinese parent with RM1000 salary (monthly) cannot get school textbook
loan, a Malay parent with RM2000 salary is eligible.
(24) All 10 public university vice chancellors are Malays.
(25) 5% of the government universities' lecturers are of non-Malay origins. This
percentage has been reduced from about 70% in 1965 to only 5% in 2004.
(26) Only 5% has been given to non-Malays for government scholarships in over 40
(27) 0 Chinese or Indians were sent to Japan and Korea under the 'Look East Policy.'
(28) 128 STPM Chinese top students could not get into the course to which they
aspired, i.e. Medicine (in 2004).
(29) 10% quotas are in place for non-Bumi students for MARA science schools
beginning in 2003, but only 7% are filled. Before that it was 100% Malays.
(30) 50 cases in which Chinese and Indian Malaysians are beaten up in the National
Service program in 2003.
(31) 25% of the Malaysian population was Chinese in 2004, a drop from 45% in 1957.
(32) 7% of the Malaysian population is Indian (2004), a drop from 12% in 1957.
(33) 2 million Chinese Malaysians have emigrated in the past 40 years.
(34) 0.5 million Indian Malaysians have emigrated overseas..
(35) 3 millions Indonesians have migrated to Malaysia and become Malaysian citizens
with Bumis status.
(36) 600,000 Chinese and Indian Malaysians with red IC were rejected repeatedly
when applying for citizenship in the past 40 years. Perhaps 60% of them had already
passed away due to old age This shows racism, based on how easily Indonesians got
their citizenships compared with the Chinese and Indians.
(37) 5% - 15% discount for a Malay to buy a house, regardless whether the Malay is
rich or poor.
(38) 2% is what new Chinese villages get, compared with 98% - what Malay villages got
for rural development budget.
(41) 0 temples/churches were built for each housing estate. But every housing estate
got at least one mosque/surau built.
(42) 3000 mosques/surau were built in all housing estates throughout Malaysia since
1970. No temples or churches are required to be built in housing estates.
(43) 1 Catholic church in Shah Alam took 20 years to apply to have a building
constructed. But they were told by Malay authority that it must look like a factory and
not like a church. As of 2004 the application still has not been approved.
(44) 1 publishing of Bible in Iban language banned (in 2002).
(45) 0 of the government TV stations (RTM1, RTM2, TV3) are directors of non-Malay
(46) 30 government produced TV dramas and films always showed that the bad guys
had Chinese faces, and the good guys had Malay faces. You can check it out since
1970s. Recent years, this has become less of a tendency.
(47) 10 times, at least, Malays (especially Umno) had threatened to massacre the
Chinese Malaysians using May 13, since 1969.
(48) 20 constituencies won by DAP would not get funds from the government to
develop. These Chinese majority constituencies would be the last to be developed.
(49) 100 constituencies (parliaments and states) had been racially re-delineated so
Chinese votes were diluted for Chinese candidates. This is one of the main reasons why
DAP candidates have consistently lost in elections since the 1970s. (update to 2008
(50) Only 3 out of 12 human rights items are ratified by the Malaysian government
(51) 0 - elimination of all forms of racial discrimination (UN Human Rights) has not
been ratified by Malaysian government since 1960s.
(52) 20 reported cases whereby Malay ambulance attendances treated Chinese patients
inhumanely, and Malay government hospital staffs purposely delayed attending to
Chinese patients in 2003. Unreported cases may be 200.
(54) 20 cases every year whereby Chinese drivers who accidentally knocked down
Malays were seriously assaulted or killed by Malays.
(55) 12% is what ASB/ASN got per annum while banks fixed deposits are only about
3.5% per annum.
There are hundreds more examples of racial discrimination in Malaysia to add to this list. It is hoped that the victims
of racism will write in to help expose this situation.
The Malaysian government should publish statistics showing how much Malays had benefited from the 'special
rights' of Malays and at the same time release the statistics which show how minority races are being discriminated
If the Malaysia government hides the statistics above, then there must be something unnatural going on with the
non-Malays of Malaysia . Civilized nations openly publish statistics to show its treatment of its minority races.