On mutual trust and respect
“WHEN pigs fly” is a phrase often used to indicate the seemingly impossible much like what we saw last week when Donald Trump was catapulted to be the 45th US president-elect. In the run-up many did not consider this possible with President Barack Obama putting him down as “uniquely unqualified” to be president in contrast to the “most qualified” rival.
Trump proved that the “most qualified” candidate was not good enough when she lost by a margin that no mainstream media predicted. I see this as a reason to rejoice because at least we do not have to contend with another version of “American exceptionalism” that she was counting on. Or specifically having to deal with her idea of renaming the “Pacific Ocean” as the “American Sea”.
But that is not all. China Daily reported another renaming exercise involving ecommerce giant, Alibaba. The daily quoted a retired Chinese ethnic studies expert, Peng Gaocheng, warning Alibaba to be “more cautious about changing its name in case some Muslims feel offended.”
He was referring to the purported move to rename its travel website to mean “flying pigs”. The Chinese Muslims are debating the move.
The president of Alibaba, Jack Ma, had met Malaysia’s prime minister when he was in China to seal some RM114 billion worth of deals. Ma has even been assigned as an adviser of sorts to the government. The prime minister may not have been privy to the “flying pigs” decision but there is no doubt he can be placed in a very awkward position by the decision linked to his new adviser.
This turn of events is intriguing considering that China Daily also published a full page article, “Reaping the harvest of mutual trust” with a byline “Najib Abdul Razak”. The writer is emphatic that the “relationship between China and Malaysia is based on mutual trust and respect” while admitting that there are issues “even the closest of friends may disagree”.
Is the “flying pigs” controversy a case in point, and how much of it compromises larger Muslim sentiments in the context of mutual trust and respect?
The article also mentioned that “we are delighted that Malaysia has been chosen to host Xiamen University Malaysia, the first overseas branch of any public Chinese university.” Education and educational institutions can be vehicles to promote mutual trust and respect provided it is built on the basis of equal partnership. This is imperative as it often hinges on the question of sovereignty and dignity of the country, especially when the article underscored that “it is incumbent upon larger countries to treat smaller ones fairly”.
We were then rightly reminded of former colonial powers that (were once trusted to defend us against the communist insurgents who were aligned to mainland China) did take advantage to “exploit” the country and its people.
Given such unpleasant experiences one wonders about the likelihood of another ambitious power being equally “exploitative” when dealing with a vulnerable country?
Taking the Xiamen University branch campus as an early indicator, there have been expressions of unhappiness since the groundbreaking ceremony officiated by the prime minister in 2014. It was hard to miss that the text national language, Bahasa Malaysia, was missing from the historic foundation stone when there was ample room for the text in Chinese and English (in that order).