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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: August 2019

3 - The Nanyang Revolution and the Malayan Nation, 1929–1930

from Part I - Revolution in the Nanyang


The establishment of the Malayan “national” party and the emergence of the discourse of a Malayan nation through a translation slippage of the word minzu (nation, nationality, people) coincided with a growing need for a Malayan identity among the Chinese in Malaya. Alongside the emerging sense of a local Malayan Chinese identity among intellectuals and a growing anxiety among Chinese about the Chinese identity of their children, these trends led to the effective dual Malayan and Chinese identity of MCP members. For the MCP, the unintended consequence of the Comintern’s activity was the discursive foundation of the Malayan nation through the establishment of a national party and the promotion of the Malayan revolution led by the MCP, which consisted of Chinese immigrants along with a small number of Malays. In the same time period, concerns about political rights in other European and American colonies in Southeast Asia shaped Chinese political participation in indigenous nationalist projects and their identities vis-à-vis local populations, such as in the Philippines. Malay concepts of national belonging in Southeast Asian colonies did not accommodate an immigrant population, unlike the Comintern idea of an internationalist nation.

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