ASIAN AFFAIRS INTERVIEW WITH WANG GUNGWU
DIASPORA, A MUCH ABUSED WORD
Director of the East Asian Institute - NUS (Singapore)
Laurent Malvezin (LM). A mountain of books has been written about the so-called Chinese diaspora in Asia. Do you think it deserves such attention?
Wang Gungwu (Wgw).- The word diaspora, as I understand it, implies, both business acumen and wealth, and the success of the early Chinese merchants in the early days reminded many of a similar social position achieved by the Jewish merchants elsewhere However, the Chinese merchants moved to Southeast Asia a long time ago (1) and today, such view is of little relevance with the realities. For the last two hundred years, the Chinese who left China by the millions were not for most of them, traders or businessmen. They were poor, and very much in the situation of the journeymen living today the countryside for urban areas in hope of a better future. Those migrants were far from wealthy, rather the opposite. I cannot associate such migration with the word ‘diaspora”, which has the opposite meaning (2).
LM.- Nevertheless, we can associate the word with a large social group which is self-centered and which derives its strength not from the individuals but from its cohesion.
Wgw.- Of course, "diaspora" has also such connotation, but then it is assumed that all the overseas Chinese are involved and that there is a cohesion. Such view is very misleading. The fact is that the Chinese, wherever they go, are easily influenced by their environment. they adapt to new circumstances and thus become very different from other groups living elsewhere. I don’t see much cohesion.
LM.- To a foreigner, it does not look like that at all. Chinatown is very much a Chinese city, and a foreigner tends to see them as being all over the world very much Chinese.
Wgw.- The Chinese get together for their festival and Chinese new year. They will also look for a new business partner among their community as a matter of convenience, but really, all the overseas communities have their own characters, they rarely can communicate with one another, and there is a myriad of them. To me, instead of saying there is one big Chinese Diaspora, which brings negative commentaries, it would be better to look at the way they were able to adapt in order to survive and what sort of strategies they developed overtime to fit into their new environment. We will see that each one is in fact unique (3). Look at the Chinese who have gone to the Philippines. They are very different from the Chinese who settled in Thailand. Both are very different from those who left for Brazil, Argentina or the United-States (4). Each of them had to find ways and means to adjust accordingly.
LM.- Yet, they remain, for the essential, very much Chinese.
Wgw.- Of course they keep their Chinese culture and what goes with it in their social relations. But that behavior is not central to their purpose. They will do whatever is necessary to improve their standard of living. It is true that most of them are successful, but today the interesting question is to see whether the new emigrants, no longer poor and uneducated people, but rather blue-collar people, are as successful as their poor predecessors.
LM.- It seems so.
Wgw.- All those people from Hong Kong, Taiwan and China are in fact facing a much more challenging task than the poor coolies or the merchants of the past (5). They have a very different experience and what they need is some professional opening, it means competing directly with local professionals. It requires a different strategy.If you have no skills, and just want to be a waiter, it's somehow much easier because you don't have to fight with anybody or to compete very hard with others, but to be a lawyer, engineer, or accountant or a doctor with an established clientele is another matter.
LM.- But qualification can also be seen as an asset that the poor did not have.
Wgw.- Yes, but then you have local professionals. They have very powerful ways of keeping you out of their business. They won’t make things easy for you and you must find ways to coping with them.
LM.- But you can’t deny that the industrialized countries do offer a lot of opportunities
Wgw.- That is the paradox. The countries that are welcoming the new blue-collar emigrants from China, Hong Kong or Taiwan give them a lot of credits when it comes to their dedication and professional skills and qualification. They certainly have a better chance to get in. But being admitted is one thing, to have a job in your profession and make a good living out of it is quite a different matter. Ultimately, many of them have to do other things, held minor jobs, just to survive. How then can they fit in the concept of a wealthy and powerful diaspora? Most of those people are just strenuously trying to make a living, sometimes surrounded by a hostile environment.
LM.- Why, id that is the case, scholars have been writing mountains of books about the influence and the power of the Chinese diaspora? Is it all a myth?
Wgw.- There is a political dimension in the word and the meaning people are trying to convey with it. If the analysis were only descriptive and the terms generic, it would not capture the headlines. But it does make headlines. It is only because it fits some people's prejudice or reinforces a pre-judged view.
LM.- Such as the existence of a Chinese threat?
Wgw.- One has to look at the context in which the term diaspora is used to see it is not innocent. For instance, the term diaspora covers a specific social content, As such, it can be applied to any group that fits the social content and one can make various comparison from one diaspora to the next. But it is only an academic exercise valid in a narrow social context. But if you lift out of its context the word, it is another matter. In the media or in the context of public affairs, it becomes politicized and it is then used by politicians who have an agenda. IN such a case, we have to ask ourselves, what was the purpose? Are we trying to demonize some social groups?
LM.- Then, let’s ask the question. are we trying to demonize the overseas Chinese and if yes, why?
Wgw.- The word diaspora is in itself an oversimplification and I find personally very alarming that people talk commonly of a Jewish diaspora, an Indian diaspora or a Chinese one, as if the world consist of few " leagues ". It is simply not true, but unscrupulous people can use such description to build up the image of a new yellow peril. Some people are even going further, saying that China is behind it, sending out people and contacting people all around, acting like an enormous octopus, spreading its tentacles and building-up its network. Such nonsense is bound to be believed when one is using out-of-context words like diaspora. With a lot of imagination, one’s could even end up saying: "The Chinese are coming, the Chinese are coming ! ".
So, I would say that it has to be scrutinized, even from the scholars, I hope they will come out and say : Hey! That’s not what you mean, you use that word for this political purpose, that is not legitimate. Scholars must have to say that.
LM.- What can be done to stop the nonsense?
Wgw.- The scholars must be careful and thorough. When it is used out of context, they must denounce it and point out that it not used legitimately but for a political purpose. If a concept is being abused by other persons for other purposes, they must definitely take a stand and expose whoever has a political purpose.After all, such overuse is totally against what scholars s through a scientific study. The tragedy is that some scholars don’t even know what damage they are doing, abusing this term or another. After all, is there any justification to use the word to imply that there is some kind of international conspiracy or network of Chinese all over the place acting as one force? Are all these people acting as if they were responding with very sensitive antenna to each other against the rest of the world, with China behind it? No, it’s sheer nonsense.
LM.- Probably, but there is this lingering feeling that the Chinese have no real sense of belonging where they live. Why?
Wgw.- Most of them identify themselves with the country where they live. A Chinese in Thailand is first of all a Thai (6). The confusion is that If you ask them, they tell you that they find it useful to learn Chinese to do business or, it is a way to regain some pride in their culture, to try to understand who were their ancestors. But such attitude does not translate into a political identification. The confusion for some is that, in Asia, the concept of a political identity and a cultural identity, has to be understood as being two different things and they are not exclusive.
LM.- Can you really identify with your country if you try hard to keep a different cultural identity than the prevailing one of the country?
Wgw.- That is the question and I think the answer is yes. It is now better understood. When you are in France, you maybe say I’m Parisian, while saying I’m European when you are in Asia, and you feel like it, because perhaps in Asia, you want to differentiate yourself from the Americans. So each one of us can, depending where and when, use different labels.
LM.- We can probably separate the political from the cultural, but at some point you have to belong somewhere and to adhere to a common ground, otherwise how can you have a sense of nation?
Wgw.- Whether we like it or not, not everyone is comfortable with the concept of the nation state in Europe you have taken it for granted because it has been there for so long and your borders did not changed much, but in East-Asia, the idea of a nation-state, with its national boundaries, one language, one culture, one religion and so on, is very alien. In that respect one cannot expect East-Asian people to be as clear of their identity as the French or the British are.
LM.- Most of the countries are only fifty years old at the most. They need time.
Wgw.- People are learning, learning to say I’m a Singaporian, or I’m a Malaysian , but notwithstanding, they just keep saying, I’m a Chinese, or a Malay. For them, there is no contradiction between their ethnic identity and their national identity. In Europe the perception is different because people are used to adhere to only one dominant identity. All other identities must be removed, or were removed. It is the parable of Damascus. A Christian can only be Christian if it rejects all other identities. It is all or nothing. Once you are a convert, you must reject all your past. That kind of attitude and language is the Christian way. The problem is that it doesn't apply to Asia. As you know among the Chinese, people have different religion simultaneously. They go to Buddhist temple for certain things and go to Taoist for other things. If you tell them to be a Christian, they are willing to, provided the Christians would allow them to be Buddhist and Taoist at the same time. But you can't. Actually, it is one of the reason why most of the Chinese do not convert to Christianity, because of its exclusive nature. It goes against the Asian culture to be exclusively something. The Christian priests find the Chinese who still want to worship their ancestors and still believe in their "fengshui" and superstition, not sincere. But the Chinese believe in Jesus Christ and be all that!
LM.- Applying your remark to the meaning of diaspora, does it mean, in your view, that a diaspora can only exist in reference to the notion of exclusivity, in which case it is therefore only a figment of the imagination, a matter of perception.
Wgw.- Exactly! A Chinese finds it difficult to understand the bitterness of the relations between different cults, for example, between the Catholics and the Protestants, or even amongst the Protestants themselves, Luther against Calvin, etc… It is puzzling since it is all about the same religion, so what is the fuss? There is still an enormous gap between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church. Why? Because each has an exclusive vision.
LM.- That's the essence of every monotheist religion
Wgw.- That is the point, but such approach and belief in an exclusive vision of the world is completely foreign to the Asian soul. I am not talking of course of the Muslims living in Asia. I do think in a way that because of this exclusive religious belief, so does the political culture becomes exclusive as well.
LM.- So, there is some truth in saying that the Chinese diaspora, whatever that is, remains Chinese in essence, and pragmatic, which, in political terms, means a lot.
Wgw.- Pragmatism? No doubt on that, but there is a difference between being versatile: and pragmatic. If and when their interests are not well protected or defended, why should they accept it for ever?
LM,- Indeed, but I see a paradox there. A diaspora is in way a minority, and it has to be careful. So what you describe is the right of the minorities not to be abused. They want their identity to be respected. Yet, we live in a world where human mobility and cross-culturalism are increasing, a phenomena that is a threat to the nation-state as we know it.
Wgw.- Yes, there is a disturbing paradox, which challenges the political leadership of any new nation. A leader could feel that our nation building task is not yet completed, and already it is already challenged from outside. What to do? The fact remains that technology has changed, the way the world economy works. You can ignore the mobility of the financial capital, the movement of goods, and the speed of the information. It is part of the realities that are surrounding you. So, this is not possible to say I'm in the middle of the nation building process, leave me alone! All these new nations have to cope with conditions than are much more difficult than in Europe when the nation-building process took place.I don’t think that Western leaders have any idea of how much more difficult it is for Asia today to follow the same path.The financial crisis has proven, if we needed the proof, that we are terribly vulnerable. Overnight, Asia can see a capital drain taking place, for little reason. In that context it is vain to pretend that the nation-state process taking place in Asia is safe.The Asian leaders have to do a balancing act. While consolidating their country 's identity, at the same time they have to open it up so that the local economy can take advantage of a global economy. It's a contradiction. How to do both so that you can still save your country integrity, sovereignty, and at the same time not loose out in rat-race for economic survival ?
LM.- Isn't it the case for every economy?
Wgw.- It is, but try to imagine what it means to build-up an economy under the existing conditions of globalization, It's not the same than it was before. How did France and Britain built-up their economy in the past? They did it with a large colonial empire they controlled. They were unchallenged, and so were the United States. So that was a privilege time.
LM.- In the process, you must admit that the Chinese diaspora does not help. Why did Malaysia have to enforce a bumiputra policy, if not because the Chinese were economically speaking predominant, in a country where they were numerically outnumbered by at least one to ten (7) ?
Wgw.- Malaysia had no idea that it would become a nation. During the British time, it was a mixture of many small states, with a society made of feudal lords, small people and laborers. Then the traders and merchants came in from elsewhere. When the British left, you did not have one society but many..The ingredients were in place and it was important to understand them. What you point out is the question of assimilation.. How can it be done, and in fact can it be done from where you start? The Indonesian method was a failure because it was denying a reality. The Malaysian Government once it had recognized the reality did not try to change it by force, It can’t work. Assimilation is something that ultimately may take a very long time, if it ever succeeds. So the best, in the meantime, and it is the only practicable way, is to respect the ethnic value of each social group. That is what the policy in practice in Malaysia yesterday and now, did, Dr Mahathir himself will tell you that to assimilate all these minorities is just not workable. You can dream that the sharing of the same experiences for a long period of time will unify the people so they become one nation, one society, with sense of equity in which everybody feels he or she has a chance, But why the question can’t be actually: is it really necessary for a country?
LM.- We don’t have many examples of multicultural society.
Wgw.- In the West, and it is for us quite puzzling. Take for example for example, the Czechs and the Slovaks. Of course Czechoslovakia was an artificial country in a first place. But how different are the two societies different from one another?
LM.- I'm sure they would say themselves that they have many differences,
Wgw.- For someone in Asia, it is not so obvious. And with the logic behind such insignificant differences, to break up in tiny bit and pieces, what chances are there to build a new nation at all ? If the kind of self-determination that was used as a principle in central Europe at the break-up of the Austria-Hungarian Empire and then after the cold war were used in Asia, it would be very dangerous and would bring chaos and self-destruction. One wonders how can the standard of living of the people can be improved if this kind of fragmentation, based on some ideological principles, is allowed to make the differences between you and me, To emphasize such differences take a lot of energy, and in the meantime, nothing can be achieved. This is really not what Asia does not want to learn from Europe, and I hope that Asian people won't buy it.
LM.- At the heart of your remark is the question of trust. If minorities are starting to be distrustful, or alternatively, if the dominant social group starts to have doubts about the allegiance of a minority group, if, to come back to the concept of the Chinese diaspora, governments start for one reason or another to believe that its allegiance is not towards the place where they live but their homeland, whether it is true or not being there irrelevant, what can be achieved?
Wgw.- To assume that a Chinese is tuned to the mainland, implies that he knows their culture, he has connections at all level and knows what to do to, where and when. All these, just because he is ethnically Chinese. In fact, many overseas Chinese don't know anything simply because they have not been brought up in a Chinese environment or in a Chinese way in China. Some of them may not know a single thing about the Chinese history. Think of the Chinese Americans, and the other people of Chinese origin anywhere else in the world. I don’t believe they have much to share in common. Of course, what remain is that they can speak Chinese and becomes an advantage if you are dealing with China. But is it really an outstanding advantage? I think people overestimates its usefulness. even if the Mainlanders feel much more comfortable doing business in their own language. In that context everybody who knows their languages would be at at an advantage over those who don't. But that is not enough because any foreigner fluent in the language would then have to be considered a member of the Chinese diaspora if that is the criteria. So, it is not a valid point.
LM.- Maybe, but we could look at the phenomena from another angle. It is said that there is an Asian American vote in the United States, which means that somehow that as a group, the Chinese Americans are trying to become a pressure group, grouping their votes to support their favorite candidate (8) ? There were talks of China trying to influence the Presidential election. Although there is not a shred of evidence, it still bother the common folk.
Wgw.- I personally believe that all the fuss is merely a matter of local politics. The Asian American, or the Chinese American do not want to be left behind. They want to increase their local participation to defend their minority interests against the people who are prejudiced against them. It is no more than that and they have no impact whatsoever on foreign affairs. To link that to China may look possible, but I really believe that it does not make sense.
LM.- Why then is the American press making headlines as soon as a Chinese American or an overseas Chinese is making a donation to the Democratic Party or the Republican one, while it does not bother to bring up the matter if it is an European or an Indian, or anybody else, for that matter ?
Wgw.- All this has to do with the American political culture and the way minority interests have been able to affect mainstream politics. However, when one is talking about foreign affairs, it is clear to me that the national interests of the country are not affected by minority views. The national interest of a country is always defined by much broader perspective, especially for the US which is a superpower and thus has a tremendous range of objectives and ambitions. And no minority can affect them.
1. - The last twenty years of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) are seen by Professor Wang Gungwu as the peak of Chinese free ranging commercial activity in Southeast Asia before modern times. Three conditions were critical in enabling the Chinese, mainly the Southern Fujianese or Hokkiens, to develop their trade activities: a) the first condition was a greatly weakened central government in Beijing, which allowed the coastal provinces to engage in foreign trade. b) the second condition was the reduction of Japanese activity in the region in accordance with Tokugawa policy, which left the Chinese with no other Asian rivals. c) the third condition was the fierce rivalry between the Dutch and the Spanish, which gave the Chinese privateers room to maneuver. These three features are familiar among those, today, who try to determine the intention of China in Southeast Asia and its so-called seaward-looking foreign policy shift.
Can the same three conditions be applied here when we talk about the "China maritime threat" ?
The first condition in a new form has existed to large degree since the 1980s. Will it be reversed when centralized power in strengthened? Will the continental mindset be reestablished in Beijing? I think not, certainly not intentionally (…)
The second condition does not exist. Although China does not have another obvious rival in Asia other than Japan, Japan is very much an active protagonist (…)
The third condition of rivalry between major powers on the China coast may be compared with the US-Soviet cold war before 1989. That struggle for power and influence helped the Chinese in Southeast Asia to master the skills of industrial and financial capitalism and build their entrepreneurial networks. In addition, the rivalry also helped China take great strides into the global market economy in the 1980s. This condition too, no longer exists. But could an analogy be found in the economic rivalry between Japan and the United-States? This is unlikely to turn into a serious conflict. If it occurs, it could only further stimulate China's future maritime commitments. But the geopolitics of the region are so sensitive, especially in Northeast Asia and including the United-States and Russia, that any conflict between major protagonists would do untold damage to every country's economic development. If there is a new danger to be identified, it lies elsewhere, possibly in a direct confrontation between China and the United-States, which many U.S strategists and journalists seem to look forward to. The ethnic Chinese who have settled in the United-States and allies countries need not be a liability. Their growing numbers, especially in North America, will ensure their vested interest in helping to maintain and expand areas of co-operation between their host countries and China. Such a task, of course, requires sensitivity too, and finesse in handling, the local political culture. Clumsily done, efforts on China's behalf could backfire and bring back an atmosphere of suspicion and hostility towards the Chinese Overseas" (Wang Gungwu, The Chinese Overseas, From earthbound to the Quest for Autonomy, Harvard University Press, 2000)
2. - "I still have some disquiet about the use of the term Diaspora, not because, in English, it has until recently applied to only the Jews, nor because the word refers to exile (in Hebrew) or dispersion (in Greek), which are rather specific manifestations of the phenomenon of sojourning and migration. Of course it is misleading and politically sensitive for the Chinese to be compared to the Jews in the Muslim world of Southeast Asia, but if the reality makes the comparison appropriate, so be it. My reservations come from the problems in the Chinese encountered with the concept of sojourner (huaqiao) and the political use both China and hostile governments have made of that term. From China's point of view, "huaqiao" was powerful name for a single body of overseas Chinese. It was openly used to bring about ethnic if not nationalist or racist binding of all Chinese at home and abroad. In the countries which have large Chinese minorities, that term had become a major source of the suspicion that the Chinese minorities could never feel loyalty towards their host nations. After some thirty years of debate, the term "huaqiao" now no longer includes those Chinese with foreign passports, and is being replaced by others like "haiwai", "Huaren" and "huayi", which disclaim formal China connections. The question which lingers in my mind is: will the word Diaspora be used to revive the idea of a single body of Chinese, reminiscent of the old term, the "huaqiao" ? Is this intended by those Chinese who favour its use ? Once the term is widely used, would it be possible to keep it as a technical term in the social sciences, or will it acquire the emotive power that would actually change our views about the nature of the various Chinese communities overseas ?" ("A Single Chinese Diaspora?, in Imagining the Chinese Diaspora, Centre for the Study of the Chinese Southern Diaspora, Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, ANU, Canberra, 1999)
3. - "When Wang Lizhi (Wang Li-chi) and his colleagues decided to stress the idea of the Chinese overseas "growing roots where they land" (luodi shengen) as the main theme for the conference held in San Francisco (1997), they were drawing special attention to a phenomenon that has been ignored for many decades by both Chinese and foreign scholars. The motives for this neglect was mixed. The Chinese did not take it seriously because they wee convinced of the ultimate loyalty to China of most people of Chinese descent settled abroad, despite the fact that many of them consistently denied any allegiance to the government of China. Foreign scholars tended to focus on the apparent clannishness of most Chinese and concluded that "Once a Chinese, always a Chinese" was not merely a physical fact and culturally credible, but also included political loyalty towards the Chinese nation. There were other factors which lent support to this conclusion: a passionate nationalism had spread among many Chinese communities abroad in the first half of the century; and the communist victory of 1949 placed all Chinese overseas who did not support the Guomindang in Taiwan on the wrong side of the global Cold War" (Wang Gungwu, Preface, The Chinese Diaspora, Selected Essays, Vol 1, Time Academic Press, 1998)
4. - Chinese Business in Malaysia, Edmund Terence Gomez, Curzon 1999, P6-7
5. - the so-called "new migrants". They are mainly professionals and students, and are no longer belonging to the lower class of the Chinese society. This new elite has settled in new places since the early 80s, such as the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe. If we take the case of the tertiary level student who have "migrated", even though they theoretically shall spent a short period of time in their host country, the features shows specifics situations depending the destination of study. Since the economic reforms and open-door Policy, around 300 000 students and scholars have been studying abroad. Two important decrees have in this regard been incentives for more and more Chinese students (1984, guanyu zifei liuxue de zanxing guiding" decree issued by the State Council and in 1992 "zhixhi liuxue, guli huiguo, laiquziyou" slogan. For 90 per cent of them, they chose the United states, Japan, Canada or Australia as destination (U.S 160 000; Japan 100 000; Canada 60 000; Australia 60 000; Germany 10 000; England 8000).
6. - Ethnic groups in Singapore and Malaysia
When Sir Stamford Raffles sailed up the Singapore River in 1819, he found only a small settlement of some 150 people along the banks. As the British turned Singapore into a thriving free port, immigrant settlers soon came _ from China, India, the Malay Peninsula and the Indonesian islands. The first to be attracted by the opportunities in Singapore were the inhabitants (mainly Malays and Chinese) of the older settlement of Malacca, then under Dutch rule. Neither the Dutch authorities' stringent measures to discourage emigration nor the threat of piracy in the Malacca Straits prevented hundreds of Malaccans from finding their way to Singapore.
A major group of early immigrants were Indonesians from the neighbouring islands, among them Javanese, Bugis and Balinese (mainly traders and laborers). Racial, religious and cultural affinity with the indigenous Malays facilitated inter-marriages. The Malays and Indonesians contributed substantially to Singapore's early population growth.
The population figures for Singapore were initially derived from a head-count, usually undertaken by the police. It was not until 1860 that the first proper census was undertaken, which indicated that the population had grown to 80,792.
When Raffles landed, it was reported that there were only some 30 Chinese in Singapore, engaged in pepper and gambier planting. The establishment of British rule and new trade opportunities marked the beginning of a long period of continuous Chinese immigration. The first junk arrived from Xiamen (Amoy) in February 1821. By the mid-19th century, Chinese immigration was well organised. Many immigrants started their new life in debt due to expenses incurred in making the journey. They were often ill-treated and exploited, until the indentured labour system was abolished in 1914.
The early Chinese immigrants came without their womenfolk. In a new environment without their families and relatives, they had no choice but to live under the protection of various clan associations and secret society brotherhoods. As the Chinese community in Singapore eventually settled down from the 1870s, increasing numbers of women came - encouraged by official government policies. Straits-born and many China-born immigrants settled down to permanent family life in Singapore. Several leading Chinese merchants became British subjects under a naturalization law passed in 1852.
In January 1824, the population numbered 10,683 - of which 60 percent were Malays, 31 per cent Chinese and 7 per cent Indians. By 1830, however, the Chinese had become the largest single ethnic component of the population, a demographic pattern which has continued to this day. By 1867, the Chinese community had swelled to 65 per cent of the population, numbering 55,000. The number of Chinese migrant arrivals varied from year to year - for example, 50,000 in 1880, and 250,000 in 1912. Many of them returned to China after a short stay.
The Hokkiens, Teochews, Cantonese and Hakkas were the four major dialect groups. From the beginning, Hokkiens dominated Singapore's commercial life, followed closely by Teochews. The Cantonese were generally engaged in agriculture, but some were artisans, carpenters, tailors and goldsmiths.
Indian connections with modern Singapore dated from the very first day of its foundation as a British trading post in January 1819.
In addition to 120 Indian soldiers and several assistants, Naraina Pillay, an Indian trader from Penang, was also in the Raffles' entourage.
The liberal policies of the administration and the expanding opportunities for employment drew more Indian immigrants to Singapore from Penang, India and Sri Lanka. They sought work in the government as clerks, technicians, teachers, and traders.
The decision to make Singapore a penal station in 1823 brought in a few hundred Indian convicts, who were put to work on constructing government buildings, bridges and major roads. Among the buildings built by convict labour were the St Andrew's Cathedral, the Sri Mariamman Temple and the Istana.
The British also brought in indentured laborers, almost exclusively from southern India, to construct essential public works such as roads, railways, bridges, canals and wharves.
Abuses crept into this labour recruitment system until 1872, when the system was controlled by legislation enacted by the Indian Government.
A new form of assisted immigration was introduced in 1908.
The local government eventually banned the inflow of Indian indentured immigrants in 1910 due to renewed public agitation against the system. Indian immigration, however, continued until immigration controls were strictly enforced in the early 1950s.
The most numerous are the southern Indians, who formed about 80 per cent of Singapore's Indian population since the early days.
By the end of the 19th century, Singapore became one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Asia. Besides the Chinese, who made up nearly three-quarters of the population, there were sizable numbers of Peninsular Malays, Sumatrans, Javanese, Bugis, Boyanese, Indians, Ceylonese, Arabs, Jews, Eurasians and Europeans. The population, however, was still predominantly male. In 1911, there were 2,453 males to every thousand females. Chinese 76.9%, Malays 14%, Indians 7.7%, other ethnic groups 1.4%
7. - The State of Malaya became Malaysia in 1961 and won its independence in 1963, Singapore in 1965.
8. - the "80/20 initiative"