1963-2018 - 55 years of Research for Social Change

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Inter-Ethnic Relations, Business and Identity - The Chinese in Britain and Malaysia (Draft)

This study traces the links between ethnicity and business and demonstrates how these ties provide insights into daily social relations among ethnic communities. Understanding of the economic ties developed among ethnic communities will be used to draw attention to the issue of identity and communal cohesion involving the Chinese, a minority community in Malaysia and Britain.

Britain has been receiving ethnic Chinese migrants more or less uninterruptedly since the nineteenth century. While new immigrant arrivals numerically replenished the Chinese community, they also added to its complexity and the already existing cleavages within the community. Meanwhile, new generations of British-born Chinese have emerged. In Malaysia, on the other hand, the government ceased large-scale entry of immigrants into the country from the 1930s. The stock of Chinese and Indians that were brought in to serve the labor needs of the tin mining and rubber plantation sectors of colonial Malaya were subsequently not replenished. In Malaysia, the descendants of these migrants are now well into their third and fourth generations. The emergence of new generations of locally born and bred minority communities has spawned new debates about ‘identity’ among descendants of migrants in both Malaysia and Britain.

The author would like to invite peer comments relating to this paper via email (gomez@unrisd.org) or by the UNRISD discussion forum (accessible via the link on the right of this page).