Malaysia: Institutionalized Participation
Malaysian politics is highly ethnicized and it is perhaps the most intriguing country with which to study Chinese political activity outside China and Taiwan. There is a rich diversity of Chinese organizations and institutions which help shape incorporation with the Malaysian polity. These range from long-standing business and cultural associations to political parties organized along communal lines. Few issues are not, in some manner, linked to ethnic relations. This chapter will argue that although the Chinese community is highly incorporated within the Malaysian political system, they vote at lower rates than do ethnic Malays and their influence is constrained by the institutional arrangements that shape and channel all political activity. Their influence is also muted by the diffuse centers of activity within the community itself. Economic power may lead to political influence in narrow instances, but political gains from collective action are muted. The primary goal of this chapter is to explain how and why Chinese in Malaysia wielded greater political influence before 1969 and, despite maintaining a high socioeconomic status, have seen the impact of their political involvement become more circumscribed.