Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Does the Motherland Beckon?

[by Stefan, this week in Singapore and Malaysia and reading Carl Trocki’s latest book, “Singapore: Wealth, power and the culture of control”]

I’m in Kuala Lumpur for a few days to store my stem cells. A bit more about this at the end of this entry, first back to something I’ve been wondering about: Malaysia’s 24% Chinese population and their status as ‘less local’ than Malays according to a constitutional structure of affirmative action for Bumiputras (more here). If China continues to rapidly modernize, will the loyalties of Chinese Malaysians towards Malaysia dissipate as they contemplate opportunities ‘back in the Motherland’?

This issue of divided loyalties and of Mainland China’s influence has been of concern in all South East Asian countries for at least the last hundred years. One of the primary distinctions that Carl Trocki identifies in his studies of the Chinese population of Singapore is between those that are English speaking and educated, and those that are educated and speak a Chinese language (and hence have stronger feelings of kinship to China).

But first, if we go back several hundred years, say 200 years before any British merchant made it onto the scene in South East Asia, one would have already encountered Chinese sailors actively trading in this part of the world. China’s prosperity and population explosion during the 18th century resulted in far greater demand than ever before of imported products from South East Asia. Obtaining the resources that China needed was labor intensive and the indigenous population was deficient in numbers or organization to properly meet China’s growing demands.

The problem was solved with a seemingly endless supply of boatloads of young Chinese men willing (some later forced) to work in mines and plantations throughout South East Asia. They initially worked under the guise of a relatively egalitarian social and economic structure called a ‘KongSi’ (though later it became exploitative). As with Hong Kong, most early Chinese immigrants to South East Asia thought of the voyage as only temporary. But the reality is that most laborers would never make it back. Seah Eu Chin, a leading TeoChew merchant that in the beginning of the 19th century was head of the pepper and gambier society (“Kongkek”) in Singapore, estimated in the 1840s that only 2 out of 10 coolies ever made it back to China. In those days the male : female ratio among the Chinese population was as high as 18:1 !

In Malaysia and Singapore most of the Chinese populations today are at least second generation and I would imagine it would be unusual to find anyone contemplating to permanently “return” to Mainland China. However, if China can continue in its phenomenal course of modernization for another 20 years might it come to be seen as the ‘land of opportunity’ and start drawing overseas Chinese back?

This is something I’ve particularly been wondering the last few days here in Malaysia, a country that is constitutionally established to give preference to Malays although about 24% of the population is ethnically Chinese. I find it quite curious and would be happy for your thoughts!

* * * * *

About the stem cell procedure. I signed myself up with Stem Life, a Malaysian stem cells storage and therapeutics company that has been in business since 2002. The last 4 days I’ve been receiving injections of Neupogen, a growth-stimulating factor that is signaling the marrow in all my bones to produce stem cells (hence the achy feeling throughout my body). Hopefully massive quantities of my stem cells are being released into my blood stream and tomorrow I’ll be plugged into a dialysis-like machine for a few hours that will take blood from my left arm, extract my stem cells and return my blood sans stem cells into my right arm. My stem cells will then by cryo-preserved here in Malaysia. I have no idea what I’ll use them for, although one thing I’ve been contemplating the last few days is whether simply having the stem cells circulating around my body might do anything to heal my aching knees. With the hope of possibly pushing that process along, today I went on a hard run around the KLCC complex. Who knows, a bit of knee inflammation may direct some of these stem cells to my knees?? Stem Life also has an interesting blog at http://stemlife1.blogspot.com


missbitchalot said...

I've been trying to trace my family roots with the help of the internet, when i came across your blog, with mention of Seah Eu Chin, my great-great-great-grandpa!

Sweet :)

missbitchalot said...

How cool is it to be doing research on my family roots only to find someone had blogged about Seah Eu Chin, my great-great-great-grandpa!

Thanks! :D

Dave and Stefan said...

Glad you were able to find a bit about your great-great-greaat grandpa here! If you're looking for more, check out Carl Trocki's book... and his index... please let me know if you uncover any great books!
Thanks, Stefan

Lisa said...

Any kind soul there can tell me d name of Seah Eu Chin's wife.Where is she buried?