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Ethnic politics and Malaysia’s China Policy: from Tun Abdul Razak to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi: a neoclassical realist interpretation

Izzuddin, Mustafa (2014) Ethnic politics and Malaysia’s China Policy: from Tun Abdul Razak to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi: a neoclassical realist interpretation. PhD thesis, The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.30ckvjmylbiz

Abstract

This thesis is a neoclassical realist study of Malaysia’s China policy from 1970 to 2009 under four Malaysian Premiers starting with Razak and ending with Abdullah, with Hussein and Mahathir in between them. Given the puzzle that despite the prevalence of Malay supremacy and the lingering perception of the ‘Chinese problem’, Malaysia’s China policy has unexpectedly evolved from cautious rapprochement to matured partnership, the primary purpose of this thesis is to assess the relationship between ethnic politics and Malaysia’s China policy. That is, why and how has Malaysia’s China policy evolved from cautious rapprochement under Razak to a matured partnership under Abdullah despite the prevailing ethnic conflict between the Malays and Chinese? To locate an answer, this thesis presents a neoclassical realist model of domestic legitimation to study the relationship between ethnic politics and Malaysia’s China policy under each of the four Prime Ministers. This thesis finds that it was the care for domestic legitimation that drove the Malaysian decision-maker to either continue or change Malaysia’s China policy. Extending further, the systemic pressures in the external strategic environment were mediated within the prism of domestic legitimation, that is, by the perceptions of the Malaysian leader who also took cognisance of the ethnopolitical situation before taking the foreign policy decision to continue or change Malaysia’s China policy. This thesis also finds that neoclassical realism was able to accommodate a menu of policy choices in multilateral and bilateral senses – rapprochement, engagement, deterrence, middlepowermanship, and cultural diplomacy – for Malaysia to manage its relations with China, whether as a threat or an opportunity. This thesis further finds that Malaysia’s China policy had an effect, albeit to varying degrees, on the performance legitimacy of the governing regime, that is, the justification of its right to rule in Malaysia. This thesis claims to be the first-of-itskind in examining Malaysia’s China policy through the lens of neoclassical realism.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2014 Mustafa Izzuddin
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Haacke, Jürgen
URI: http://etheses.lse.ac.uk/id/eprint/3679

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