The Secret of the Chinese Success in Malaysia

I have delayed in writing this article for a long time because I wanted to keep the secret. Now I am nearly 85 years old and I am happy to share the Chinese secret.

According the 2015 report from the Department of Statistics, the ethnic Chinese population is only 21.4 % in Malaysia. Yet they can do better than the majority population.

How did the Chinese succeed despite the disadvantages they have had to bear from the time of British colonial rule until today with the never ending New Economic Policy?

[ Visit The Coffee Break -The top newsletter to know more and learn more. Be smarter in 3 minutes ]

The New Economic Policy

As much as I do not wish to mention anything bad of our Government’s policy, I need to point out that the NEP introduced in 1970 had and is still creating the biggest damage to our economy. In 1970 our GDP per capita was about the same as Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea. Currently, the GDP per capita of Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea are 3.5 times, 3 times and 2.5 times better than Malaysia respectively. How can these countries be classified as fully Developed Nations and we are not when they do not even have timber to build their houses?

The Chinese secret is hard work and risk taking

Chinese migration to Malaysia

My grandfather came from a small village in Guangzhou, China about 150 years ago because he believed he could do better in Malaya. Most of the Chinese migrated overseas for the same reason. As a result, there are millions of Chinese in countries around the world.

My grandfather started as a labourer in a sawmill, sawing timber which were used as railway sleepers. Currently the railway sleepers are made of reinforced concrete but for a long time they were made of wood.  After my grandfather had accumulated enough capital he started his own sawmill.

Many Chinese came to Malaya to work in tin mines and rubber estates and a few among them became owners of tin mines and rubber estates. But the great majority were coolies and suffered very hard lives. As a result of the exploitation of Chinese and Indian labour, Malaya became the biggest producer of tin and rubber in the world.

Although there is a Chinatown in every country they settled in, the Chinese have never attempted to conquer any country. They do not go about bombing or terrorizing others or causing religious hatred. They just want to work hard to succeed and to live peacefully with other communities in whatever part of the world they have settled in.

The Plain Truth

This is the plain truth about being Chinese and the reason for our success – hard work and a focus on the material world.

It is a fact too that the Chinese civilization has survived for far more centuries than most civilizations.  The Chinese DNA – if there is one – is designed for survival.   Put us anywhere on Earth and we will make a self-reliant colony and thrive.  We survive on anything around us and we try to make the best of the most difficult situation.

No one cares if we succeed as individuals or not.  But our families take pride in knowing we have succeeded.  Yes, some will fail.  We take nothing for granted.  We don’t expect privileges to fall on our laps.  No one owes us anything.

We know we have nothing to lose if we try to succeed.  Thus, we have no fear in taking risk.  That is why Chinese are addicted to gambling.  We thrive on taking risks. That is why there so many Chinese entrepreneurs or businessmen in Malaysia and in every country where they live.

From young we are taught to count every cent.  I remember my mother always said to me to save some of my pocket money. This is Chinese culture. Not all societies or cultures teach their young this mindset because some consider it crude. Money may sound like a bad word to others but to us Chinese, the importance of money is pounded into us from the beginning of time.

It is also our culture to push our next generation to do better than the last. Be smarter.  Be stronger.  Be faster.  Be more righteous.  Be more innovative.  Be more creative.  Be richer.  Be everything that you can be in this lifetime and don’t wait for the next life to achieve your goals.

Our society judges us by our achievements…and we have no choice but to do something worthwhile because when Chinese New Year comes around every year, relatives have no qualms about asking you straight in your face…”How much are you making?”

Secretary General of the Master Builders Association

About 50 years ago, I was the Secretary General of the Master Builders Association Malaysia (MBAM) for 9 years. At that time, the tallest building in Kuala Lumpur was less than 10 floors and there were no flyover bridges and highways. Now you can see high rise buildings, flyover bridges and highways in every town and city in Malaysia. I am proud to say that most of these structures have been constructed by the Chinese members of MBAM.

The Chinese contractors are used to competing among themselves in tendering for projects. In the open tender system, the cheapest merit-based tender gets the award.  As a result, they improve their skill in doing anything faster and better than others and cheaper. For example, the Chinese contractors can now complete a 30 storey building within 30 months.


Astronaut John Glenn said-

As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.


Economic Trap Door

Almost all the real estate developers are the Chinese. It is like the Chinese is controlling the economic trap door that takes in everybody’s saving. Anyone who has some saving whether it is from legal or illegal means, would want to buy a house and the Chinese makes the profit.

Bottom Lines

Most of the buildings and houses in every town and city are owned by Malaysian Chinese.

Almost all the small and medium enterprises are owned by the Chinese.

Most of the public listed companies are also controlled by the Chinese.

The Chinese pays more tax than any other race in Malaysia.

Although more than 75% of the population are Muslims in Malaysia, there are no religious fanatics and suicide bombers. All the Chinese need to perform well is an environment of peace and tolerance. We must thank the authorities for the peace and harmony we are all enjoying.

Notice for you to get a free book

In 2012 I completed writing the book with the title Malaysia: Road Map For Achieving Vision 2020 which was published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, No 2, Jalan Bukit 11/12, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Email: [email protected].

I have given instruction to Mr Chong, the Manager to give a free copy to anyone who is interested. You can go there to take a copy.

Most Popular

To Top