History of Malaysia

Historical Moment

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Malaysian history can be traced by examining the list of foreign powers that ruled the country dating back to the 7th century. With China and Japan to the right and India and Europe to the west, Malaysia has long been influenced by its powerful neighbors. Up until the 14th century, Malaysia remained under the control of Hinduism, the religion of India. A growing Islamic force, however, broke up the region into smaller provinces in the following couple hundred years. In 1511, the Portuguese took over Melaka, beginning the European colonial domination of today’s Malaysia. The British resumed control in 1786 and threatened to declare hegemony over all of Malaysia’s neighboring Southeast Asian countries. After arguing with the Dutch, the British reached an agreement in which the assorted islands were arbitrarily assigned to either the Dutch or British Empire. The 1824 Anglo-British Treaty separated Indonesia from Malaysia and created the odd, divided configuration of Malaysia. During World War II, imperialistic Japan invaded Malaysia and weakened the British stronghold. When Britain regained power, the Malays chose to rise up and achieved complete independence in 1963. The new government faced major issues early on with the conflict with Indonesia, secession of Singapore, racial riots of 1969, and the highly debated New Economic Policy of 1971. Aimed to pacify the disproportionate number of Malays living below the poverty line, the New Economic Policy attempted to remedy the increasing racial disparity. Since 1971, the instance of poverty has declined and the country has prospered, with the exception of the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997. Today, Malaysia holds regular elections in a virtually one party political system, and under Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, hopes to become a fully developed nation by 2020.