By Mak Khuin Weng
Disclaimer: This article is not meant to disparage any individual. It is a critique of how the Chinese as a society see things and why such views are flawed.
I have a good friend who is slightly older than me but way more successful. He was a senior high ranking executive in a publicly listed company. He has a wife and two very young kids.
One day, he came home from work and told his wife he had enough of working in Malaysia and wants to leave it all behind.
Oh, he wasn’t sick of the Malays. He was sick of the Chinese and the politics they played around the office.
When it comes to Malaysian Chinese migrating overseas, I usually joke about how the Chinese are like professional refugees.
They work hard in Malaysia, get all the benefits they can out of the country, send their children overseas to study, tell their children not to come back and if possible, they would join their children overseas.
But this is not my friend. He was just too honest and straightforward and the amount of backstabbing, treachery and lies he had to deal with just got to him in the end.
As a senior executive, he had to troubleshoot entire departments and people would naturally approach him to tell him what they thought was wrong and who was responsible for it.
But my friend had learned over the years that the first thing he needs to establish should not be whether the information is authentic but to ascertain “why are you telling me this information?”
So my friend decided to leave for another country. He had the means to and he didn’t look back.
Everyone has an agenda and the Malays and Indians can exhibit the same traits.
But this sort of behaviour is certainly more common among the Chinese, and this is partly due to the culture we have.
From a cultural aspect, it’s very expensive to be Chinese.
We are expected to give out red packets to kids during Chinese New Year once we get married.
Note: the Malays only started giving out duit raya in green packets because of the Chinese influence. It was not a practice that happened when I was growing up in the 1980s.
Speaking of which, Chinese weddings are also freaking expensive if you are to hold a proper one because we must have an auspicious start, and there’s no better way to do so than to have the married couple go from table to table filled with relatives and friends to scream “Yaaaaaaaammmmmmm Seeeeennnnnng!!!!”
While this practice was something that the rich Chinese did, the middle-income Chinese families had over the years felt the pressure to show that they too could afford to have such a celebration. After all, if you can’t afford to have a traditional Chinese wedding with a ten-course dinner, then you are not ready to take on the burdens of starting a family.
Note: More understanding Chinese relatives and friends usually help mitigate the cost of the wedding dinner with a gift of a red packet of their own.
Note: Also, a good friend told me that the best guests to have at a wedding are the triad bosses. Their red packets can be in the tens of thousands if they like you.
We are expected to pay for the best education for our kids so that they do not lose out in life, hence why the community is so focused on the right to have Chinese Schools. Considering that education also requires one to know about computers, it is an absolute must for any decent Chinese family to have a computer.
Note: Malaysia is the only country outside China and Taiwan with a comprehensive and complete Chinese education system. Nowhere else in the world does the Chinese education system exist where the Chinese are the minority.
We are also expected to pay for a good burial, depending on what our beliefs are. This can involve the cost of land for the burial plot (must have good feng shui so that the descendants are blessed with good fortune too) to paying for the ceremonies and rituals that must be performed.
Note: it is due to the complicated nature of all these religious requirements that we have organisations like Nirvana that takes care of all your needs for a fee. If you have ever attended a Chinese funeral, you will know that the master of ceremonies will be busy handing you his business card after the ceremonies are done so that if you ever need services for the death of a relative, you know who to call.
So, it’s expensive to be Chinese. Chinese culture dictates and demands that the moment you are born to the moment you enter the grave, everything costs money.
And in order to get ahead, it is mandatory to understand the lesson that money makes money.
The easiest concept that translates the saying ‘money makes money’ is bribery. Bribes are a business expense – nothing more, nothing less.
Oh, I’m sure someone is going to come in here all indignant and spew the crap about how the Chinese are anti-corruption and that is why 95% of them support DAP because that is one of DAP’s core principles.
But that propaganda is only for show. The Chinese are only against corruption when others do it.
When the Chinese are placed in a situation where a bribe is expected, the equation is already worked out on whether to proceed or not. Time is money, and if paying that bribe cuts the time of getting the approvals, then pay.
Is paying the bribe cheaper than paying the fine? If the bribe is cheaper, pay. Oh, and the officer that receives the bribe can possibly develop a long-lasting relationship with you to ensure that the fines don’t come your way too.
Is the bribe going to allow me a competitive edge over those who don’t pay? If yes, pay.
Don’t think this is true? There’s plenty of evidence if you care to look.
Look at the photo I attached – it’s taken from Google Street View of a Chinese restaurant in Petaling Jaya. You can see the back lane and side road being used to wash and prepare food. Pay a bribe and get more floor space to work with? Best deal.
Is a bribe to a cop for a traffic offence cheaper? Pay.
Need a license from MBPJ but the officer is taking his / her own sweet time? Pay.
Want favour from a deity? Pay the temple an offering. Not donation – offering. Very different even if it works out the same way.
The Chinese give and the Malays take. Who you can afford to give is also a status symbol. That too is an understanding of how our country works.
So, don’t be fooled by all the crap about wanting a corruption-free government. The Chinese wouldn’t know how to function if the government was truly corruption-free.
All we are good at is talking about what is wrong with Malaysia. Asyik aje nak cakap ini salah, itu salah, tapi tak ada sesiapa pun nak cakap macam mana nak memperbetulkan sistem untuk memastikan kesalahan itu tidak boleh diulangi.
Here we are, more than a year into Pakatan’s rule. How have things changed?
Another good friend of mine who used to do high-level deals with BN politicians told me the other day that he went to see Pakatan politicians with his Malay business partner.
To him, nothing has changed and business is still as usual. He needs to make money and it does not matter which devil he has to deal with to get things done.
Anyway, please don’t get angry over this opinion piece. If you don’t think this applies to the Chinese, then it doesn’t. This is but a narration of my own experiences.
I have experienced a lot of kindness and compassion from the Chinese too, just like I have learned and gained from my friendships with Malays and Indians.
If you have time, watch this YouTube video. It is done by a China national who studied in the United States. He gives a pretty good insight into how China operates, and there are certainly parallel lessons that can be gleaned from his take of China and how Malaysian Chinese behave too.
Mak Khuin Weng is a former journalist with The Star and a former MBPJ councillor. While a councillor, he took an interest in learning about Petaling Jaya’s history and interviewed many elderly residents to get an insight into how the township was founded and also learned a lot about the founding of Malaysia. After leaving MBPJ, he was involved in protesting massive development projects in his hometown of Petaling Jaya, the most famous of which involved the proposed KIDEX highway.
The views expressed here are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of New Malaysia Herald.