Mahathir’s Malaysia: An Emerging Middle Power?

  • Kim Richard Nossal
  • Richard Stubbs
Part of the Studies in Diplomacy book series (STD)

Abstract

Malaysia is commonly considered a small country in international affairs. Certainly, all of the statistical indicators would suggest relative smallness: it currently has a population of just over 18 million people,1 and Kuala Lumpur is one of the smallest capital cities in Asia. Moreover, it has not been commonly thought of as one of the leading lights of the international community. In addition to this, the country has been beset by a number of thorny political problems. One has been the continuing though steadily diminishing threat posed by the armed Malayan Communist Party. The other is the deep ethnic divisions which have pitted the Malays, who have dominated the political life of the country, against the non-Malays (mostly Chinese-Malaysians and a smaller number of Indian-Malaysians) who have traditionally dominated the economic life of Malaysia.2 In its foreign policy, Malaysia had to deal with border disputes with each of its five neighbours in the three decades after it was formed in 1963. While these disputes were generally kept in check by the fact that all parties — Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand in 1967 and Brunei in 1984 — became members of the increasingly successful Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), they were nonetheless a drain on Malaysia’s diplomatic capital. For these reasons successive Malaysian governments tended to be preoccupied with domestic issues and had little opportunity to play a role in international relations beyond the affairs of the immediate region.

Keywords

Dioxide Europe Income Settling Malaysia 

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Notes

  1. 1.
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  2. 2.
    The Malayan Communist Party officially gave up its struggle on 2 December 1989 after signing an agreement with the Malaysian government and the government of Thailand. On the threat posed by the MCP, see Richard Stubbs, Hearts and Minds in Guerrilla Warfare: The Malayan Emergency 1948–1960 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  3. Richard Stubbs, ‘Malaysia: Avoiding Ethnic Strife in Deeply Divided Societies’, in Joseph V. Montville (ed.), Conflict and Peacemaking in Multiethnic Societies (Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books, 1991).Google Scholar
  4. 3.
    David Demery and Lionel Demery, Adjustment and Equity in Malaysia (Paris: OECD, 1992), 19.Google Scholar
  5. 4.
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  6. 6.
    For analyses of Malaysian foreign policy before 1988 see J. Saravanamuttu, The Dilemma of Independence: Two Decades of Malaysia’s Foreign Policy 1957–77 (Penang: Penerbit Universiti Sains Malaysia, 1983)Google Scholar
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  8. 7.
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  10. 8.
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    See Andrew Fenton Cooper, ‘Like-minded Nations and Contrasting Diplomatic Styles: Australian and Canadian Approaches to Agricultural Trade’, Canadian Journal of Political Science 25:2, June 1992, 349–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Richard Stubbs, ‘Canada’s Relations with Malaysia: Picking Partners in ASEAN’, Pacific Affairs 63:3, Fall 1990, 354–5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    See Gordon P. Means, ‘ASEAN Policy Responses to North American and European Trading Agreement’ in Amita Acharya and Richard Stubbs (eds), New Challenges for ASEAN: Emerging Policy Issues (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1995), 64.Google Scholar
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    Michael Vatikiotis, ‘Priming for Rio: Malaysia Set the Tone for Earth Summit Agenda’, Far Eastern Economic Review, 14 May 1992, 22.Google Scholar
  18. 35.
    Mahathir, ‘A Prime Minister Speaks’, 11. For a general discussion of the idea behind EAEC see Richard Higgott and Richard Stubbs, ‘Competing Conceptions of Economic Regionalism: APEC versus EAEC in the Asia-Pacific’. Review of International Political Economy 2:3, 1995, 549–68.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kim Richard Nossal
  • Richard Stubbs

There are no affiliations available

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