On mu­tual trust and re­spect

The Sun (Malaysia) - - SPEAK UP -

“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).

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