The changing relationships and dynamics between ethnicity, state, capital and labour are explored during the periods of British colonialism, neo-colonialism the period of industrialization. By exploring the historical and contemporary tensions between the state, labour and capital in multi-ethnic Malaysia, this chapter introduces the reader to the potential significance of the 'ethnic factor' in capitalist development. It shows how British colonial interest in Malaya led to the growth of Indian and Chinese waged labour and enhanced the power of Chinese capital. Capital's need for labour, largely supplied by Chinese contractors, contributed to the migration of 6 million Chinese between 1895 and 1927. South Indian labourers not only provided a numerical counterbalance, but were viewed as the cultural opposites of the Chinese. Malaysian industrialization has increased Malay economic presence both as a capital class and as waged labour.