What More Do The Chinese Want Now?

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Do the crowd during Najib's walkabouts in Chinese areas Penang and Johor indicate the shift in support by the Chinese for BN?

Has there been a shift in the Chinese community support for Najib and BN, or is it just a show for social media? Some Malaysian Chinese share their thoughts.

The Chinese in Malaysia, specifically the Penang Chinese, have been taking centre stage lately, thanks to the visit of former premier Najib Razak to the DAP heartland two days ago and his walkabouts in Johor Baru, specifically in Chinese dominated areas during the recent Johor state polls earlier this month.

There have been lots of mixed reactions to the photos of the crowd surging to get close to him, wanting to take a selfie with him and proudly extending their fists for a fist bump with Malaysia’s sixth Prime Minister.

As Star columnist Jocelyn Tan put it ever so candidly: “Najib seems to understand the Chinese psyche and what he is doing is to further soften Chinese opinion ahead of the general election.”

We asked a few Malaysian Chinese what they thought about the latest developments regarding the state of the nation’s economic condition, the political situation, and basically, what they want from their leaders.

Clement Woo, a regional entrepreneur based in Indochina:

“National embarrassment? It’s a more suitable term for PH/DAP” – Clement Woo, Indochina

I had been in and out of Malaysia since 2007. There is a huge difference between how Malaysia under (DS) Najib handled our economy during the 2008/11 world crisis and the PH/PN government handling the recent pandemic and financial crises. Malaysians generally didn’t feel much pain during BN administration because we were properly cushioned then by all the transformation programmes set up by the former PM.

I was based in Vietnam during the PH administration. Their economy (Vietnam’s) was and still is, booming and catching up like there’s no tomorrow. I can only watch with envy while back in Malaysia, it’s an open secret how incapable the Finance Minister was handling our economy and their (the FM and the rest of the Cabinet members) only expertise was to run a fire sale of almost all our national assets.

Gone are the days when we (Malaysians) can stand proud among our overseas peers. Even to the extent that a very senior colleague asked me, “What has happened to your country?”. And that senior colleague is none other than the former Prime Minister of Cambodia.

National embarrassment? I think that’s a more suitable term for DAP/PH.

Wong Jae Senn, a product line manager for a multinational company:

“Be careful what you wish for. Chants of Bossku! among the Chinese could well be the new normal” – Wong Jae Senn, Kuala Lumpur

Najib’s recent visit to Penang showed us that the Chinese response to him in Johor wasn’t a fluke or a one-off phenomenon. Many observers were surprised to see videos of the former PM getting mobbed by Chinese crowds in Johor while DAP personalities failed to gain such a rousing welcome. Even more shocking, something that was thought to be impossible happened – the Chinese crowds actually chanted “BossKu!”.

And now we see the same thing happening in Penang. Chinese traders and regular people on the street mobbing Najib, and even calling out “BossKu!”. The first time it happened in Johor, Pakatan was left baffled and in denial. Chinese who were openly supportive of DSN were like mythical creatures after 2018 – occasionally heard about, but seldom spotted, and hardly ever seen in the open. But in recent years and months, this appears to be no longer the case.

Misplaced Overconfidence

DAP’s Ong Kian Ming even cautioned BN against what he alluded to be their misplaced overconfidence in capturing support in Johor, due in no small part to the traction that DSN’s charisma and presence contributed. We all know how that played out. BN was even able to wrest four seats away from DAP on their way to a landslide victory, with many seeing it as a revival of sorts for MCA as well.

When DSN visited Penang, we saw the same thing played out again. This time around, with vitriol from PKR’s Rafizi Ramli. We see DAP play up DSN’s past statement of “Apa lagi Cina mahu? (What more do the Chinese want?)” which at that time was indeed a valid question.

Under DSN, BN brought in the closest cooperation and diplomatic relations we ever had with Singapore and China, with plenty of foreign investment and participation in local mega-projects happening under his watch, to the delight of Malaysian sinophiles. And yet, at the same time, these very sinophiles threw their support solidly behind DAP while rejecting Najib. The Chinese community had increasing economic prosperity and equity, we had a louder political voice, Chinese schools were getting more government funding, and the UEC certification was being evaluated for formal recognition by the Najib administration despite a lot of protests from various pro-national education groups. And yet, the Chinese community largely applauded these developments while rejecting BN and Najib. There was absolutely nothing wrong in asking “Apa lagi Cina mahu?” under such circumstances. Anyone would be bewildered by this conundrum.

Indeed, what else was there left to do to regain Chinese support?

Risky Experiment For The Chinese

We now have an answer and it’s not something that is sitting well with DAP and Pakatan: A bad experience with a risky experiment that did not pay off for the Chinese community.

GE14 resulted in the victory of Pakatan Harapan on the back of lies, slander and empty promises. All those fancy “economic policies” and “analysis” done by people like Tony Pua, Ong Kian Ming and Rafizi Ramli were finally proven to be useless and unrealistic. Foreign investment and economic growth tanked practically overnight. The world’s longest-running stock market bull-run that lasted years transformed into the largest continuous capital outflow in Asia for almost half a year after GE14.

In the years that followed, we started hearing grumblings and discontent among the Chinese community, with a growing voice that says “Things were better under BN”. Mainland Chinese GLCs that were looking at billion-ringgit projects in Malaysia are openly telling their partners that Najib was the best Malaysian PM that they’ve dealt with and is still the favourite Malaysian PM for the Chinese mega-corporations.

DAP and Pakatan suffered defeat at every by-election and state election held since GE14. The crowds that used to throng DAP’s ceramahs (political talks) are no more. Videos from the recent Johor state elections showed how pathetic their events have become, with even “superstars” such as Kit Siang, Guan Eng and Superman Hew drawing feeble numbers. Their talks at food courts and eateries garnered hardly any attention from the patrons. A similar situation played out in Penang during DSN’s visit. The Chinese mobs that welcomed and cheered on DSN were something that DAP and PKR personalities could only wish for.

So now, in their denial, they’re playing up an old quote to depict it in a negative light: “Apa lagi Cina mahu?”. Be careful what you ask for, lest the answer is “Cina mahu BN kembali berkuasa” (the Chinese want BN back at the helm).

Chants of “BossKu!” among the Chinese could very well be a new normal.

Tzu P Wong, an entrepreneur based in Sabah:

“The Chinese have a way of playing the balancing act. It’s part of their survival skills” – Tzu P Wong, Sabah

I am a stern Najib supporter, however, if you ask me if Chinese support has come back to Najib and BN, I would tell you no, not yet, not at the moment, at least. But if you ask me will Chinese support ever come back to Najib or BN, I can tell you the possibility is there and I am keeping my fingers crossed on this.

Very Pragmatic People

The reason is, the Chinese are very pragmatic people. We have survived for more than five thousand years (as how many historians would say) and naturally, our survival skills are much more complex than others, especially compared with other races in Malaysia. The Chinese have been conquered and ruled by many fierce nomadic tribes in the past like the Mongolians, but we survived and eventually absorbed these nomadic people instead. This shows how resilient we are as a people.

To cut things short, this pragmatism has shown in full spectrum in the Tanjung Piai by-election in Johor last year. Despite the overwhelming support to DAP and PH just about three-plus years ago during GE14, the Chinese communities can turn around in an instant and teach DAP and PH a very expensive lesson in the said by-election. Then many people started thinking: That’s it, the Chinese voters have returned. But when you look at the recent Johore state election, BN did not win much in the Tanjung Piai area.

Why was there such a big difference in a short span of time? To me, this is because the Chinese are masters at playing the balancing act. We rarely give overwhelming support to one side and even if we did occasionally, the self-correction mechanism will automatically kick in and readjust the balance (that’s another reason why DAP has been able to survive in Malaysia.)

So, even I support Najib and BN fully, I won’t be complacent with the reception Najib/Bossku received in the many recent Chinese events. These phenomena may be just some over-enthusiastic Chinese BN supporters that were trying to show their appreciation towards Bossku for all the things he has done for the Chinese communities while he was in power.

In my opinion, the better approach would be to work on the Chinese support for Bossku and BN an inch at a time until it reaches some thresholds that may tip the balance. A Pareto Principle effect of some sort. – New Malaysia Herald

Editor’s Note:

DSN and Bossku are references to Najib Razak.

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