Colonial Malaya - History of the East

4.2. Colonial Malaya

Located in the extreme south of Indochina and elongated to the south of Malaya, unlike Burma, was the object of colonial expansion much earlier. Close to the historical destinies of Indonesia, it was already in the XVI century. was Islamized and at the same time proved to be an important zone of influence of the colonial powers - before Portugal, then Holland. The British began to strengthen themselves in the ports and on the coastal islands of Malacca only in the late 18th century, and at the beginning of the 19th century. The ownership of the British East India Company here was turned into a special presidency of Straits Settlements , the head of which was subordinate directly to the Governor-General of India.

Under the sign of strengthening the British in Malaya, the 1830s-1860s passed. Considering at first its possessions here only as important trading stations on the way from India to China, the British soon changed their point of view, beginning to actively develop the ore wealth of the peninsula. For the extraction of tin, Chinese immigrants-kuli were brought here. Soon, the Chinese huaqiao took a serious position in the trade of Malaya, especially in its strategically important areas, including Singapore. Something from the expansion of trade and the extraction of tin came to the rulers of the Sultanates, of which Malaya was at that time. But the bulk of the proceeds went to the British, who exported from Malaya precious tree species, spices, tin, even gold, and instead imported their industrial goods and opium. Since the 1870's. Malaya began to turn into a colony of Britain. In addition to the colonial status of the Straights Settlement, the Federation of the Malay Sultanates was created, where the power of the sultans and their vassals was only nominal, whereas in reality all affairs at the highest and middle levels were administered by British residents and officials. Some sultanates, especially in the north of the country, retaining formal independence and traditional ties with Siam, nevertheless also turned out to be dependent on the British colonial authorities.

Malaya is much more than all other countries of Southeast Asia, already at the turn of the XIX-XX centuries. was involved in the world capitalist economy. The production of tin, sharply increased by the efforts of the British who captured most of the mines, for many years accounted for almost half of the world's production. Even more important was the production of rubber, in the export of which Malaya became almost a monopolist. The British not only invested a lot of money in tin mines and rubber plantations, they also cared to supply their craft with enough manpower, for which migrants and contracted coolies workers from China and India were imported into Malaya. The result of this policy was not only a noticeable change in the ethnic picture to that sparsely populated Malaya. More important for the country's fate was the national-religious disunity of its population, which prevented the consolidation of the forces of national liberation. The alignment of political forces here depended on the ratio of religious and ethnic groups of the population and from the sphere of activity in which representatives of these groups prevailed.

- The Malays in the early XX century. in the country there were only about half of the population, and almost all of them were engaged in agriculture and traditionally were managed by the sultans and their officials within the usual framework of the Islamic administration. Economically, this was the poorest part of the country's population, except, of course, the sultans involved in the government and their surroundings.

- The second important group of the population (33-35%) turned out to be Chinese , natives of Southern China, well organized into harsh socially-religious corporations - secret societies, communities, sects, guild guilds - with a huge power of the leaders of these corporations, running at tin mines, in craft and commerce. The overwhelming majority of the Chinese were workers, artisans, traders and casual laborers who were disenfranchised as coolers.

- The third group was Indians (slightly more than 10% of the population) employed in plantations, serving in the army and police, and also holding lower positions in the colonial administration.

According to these three groups, public opinion and political movements were formed in Malaya. Among the Muslim Malays, the struggle for national liberation was manifested since the beginning of the 20th century. in the form of enlightenment, the development of literature in the native language, the creation of the Malay press and modernized religious schools with the teaching of the English language and the rudiments of the European sciences. The ideas of Muslim reformism have also become popular, mainly in their pan-Islamist aspect. Both reformers and nationalists criticized colonialism and demanded that Malaysians have the right to participate in governing the country. Over time, these requirements grew into a struggle for independence (a variant of such a struggle was the desire to unite with Indonesia within the framework of a large unified independent Malaysian-Indonesian state).

Chinese migrants, a large part of which consisted of temporary workers returning to their homeland and being replaced by new ones, were guided by China. They supported the slogans and activities of the reformers (Kang Yu-wei) and the radicals (Sun Yat-sen), created branches of radical organizations such as Tunmenhuei (Allied League) and the Kuomintang (National Party), organized Chinese schools with instruction in their native language, clubs, published newspapers and magazines. However, over time, the influential stratum of Chinese from among the permanent inhabitants of Malaya, who were striving to create a unified self-governing Malay nation with equal rights for the representatives of all the peoples inhabiting the country, was increasingly consolidated. As for the Indians and Ceylon people, ideologically many of them were guided by the INC, whereas in the organizational plan they were united in trade unions of plantation workers or in the Indian association of Malaya.

The global crisis of 1929-1933. Strongly hit the economy involved in the capitalist market of Malaya. Prices for tin and especially for rubber dropped sharply. The mines and plantations fell into decay, the workers became unemployed, the peasants barely made ends meet and sometimes they lost their land. Up until the beginning of World War II, this state of decline continued, against which the activity of the trade union and strike movement sharply intensified, including under the leadership of the Communist Party, which extended its influence mainly to the Chinese population of the country. After a brief economic boom of 1939-1940, associated with the sharp increase in the demand for metal and rubber at the beginning of the war, Malaya turned out to be under the Japanese occupation .

The invaders relied on national discord, activating the anti-English sentiments of the Indians (it was in Singapore that S.C. Bos formed the units of the Indian National Army) and trying to neutralize the dissatisfaction of the Malays, especially the Sultans and their entourage, limited in their traditional power. The Japanese, which was quite natural, most sharply opposed the Chinese population of the country, since Japan was officially at war with China. This could not but affect the mood of the Chinese community in Malaya and played a role in the alignment of political forces. The center of resistance to the Japanese was the partisan detachments led by the Communist Party, whose numbers grew mainly at the expense of the Chinese.

Japan's surrender led to the return to Malaya of the English, who reorganized the system of colonial rule of the country. A single Malaysian Union was created with common administration and citizenship for all permanent residents of the country. The issue of the reform of colonial administration was raised, which was promoted by the growth of national self-consciousness and the emergence of a number of new influential mass political organizations, mainly acting again on a national basis. In July 1946, under the pressure of these organizations, the colonial authorities had to reconsider their positions and agree to the creation of the Malay Federation with fairly substantial elements of autonomy and self-government. A significant number of parties and organizations of Malaya adopted these reforms. The Communist Party opposed them and began an armed struggle. For several years the civil war raged in the country, during which the forces of armed resistance to reforms gradually dried up.

Meanwhile, in the legal political life of Malaya, the process of consolidating the anti-colonial forces proceeded. Previously, nationally-oriented parties and associations (the United Malay National Organization, the Chinese Society of Malaya, the Indian Congress of Malaya) were emphasized, they were forming a single alliance, whose representatives won elections. In 1957, on the basis of this alliance, the Union Party was created. Its leaders led the Malay Federation after the proclamation of independence of Malaya in the same year. Federal Party was in the head of the country and after the declaration of a united Malaysia (Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, Sabah) in 1963. As you know, soon after that, in 1965, Singapore left the Federation and became an independent state. < center>

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