This work looks at how Malaysia's political institutions and policies have constrained Chinese acculturation with the dominant Malay population. Particular attention is paid to the nature of electoral institutions; such as the ethnic party structure, the apportionment of electoral districts, and the debate over Malaysia's education system. These political institutions, and not just the coercive apparatus of the state, coupled with the way the Constitution defines a person as ‘Malay’, effectively maintain a distinct boundary between who is Malay and who is Chinese or Indian. Ethnic categorization in Malaysia has, in the past, masked equally wide divisions between classes. More recent efforts at creating a ‘Malaysian’ national identity may clash with a political structure still largely organized by ethnicity, and may bring these other fissures to the forefront.