The present multi-racial character of the country is the direct result of British economic policy before the war which encouraged mass non-Malay immigration. The Chinese and Indian immigrants, during that time, were regarded as transient workers and their flow into the country, and departure, fluctuated with Malaya's economic fortunes. However, they became settled communities in the country by the fourth decade of this century. Malaya's vast economic potential and the liberal, tolerant attitude of the Malays, exploited by the colonial government, caused an influx of Chinese and Indian immigrants, and mass immigration continued until the thirties.
A striking feature of the Malayan society at that time (which continues today, slightly abated) was the voluntary cultural segregation—while the Malays lived in a cultural milieu that institutionally continued in a local context, there was no effort made by the colonial authorities to orientate the increasing number of immigrant races towards local institutions. For the most part, the immigrant races were administered independently and led an independent existence. This partly explains some current attitudes among certain sections of the non-Malay communities, and the difficulties experienced today in nation-building.
The Chinese in Malaya were not without "political consciousness". Such political interests that moved many of them were, however, externally inspired. They played a pan in. and contributed substantially to. like most Nanyang Chinese of the time, the 1911 Revolution in China. In 1912. the Kuomintang established a branch in Malaya. Shortly afterwards, other branches mushroomed. but they all went underground a few years later because of opposition from the colonial authorities. After 1923. the Kuomintang organisation fell under strong communist influence and by 1926 the volume of Chinese revolutionary propaganda in Malaya was found to have increased considerably. Kuomintang activities in Malaya reflected strikingly the developments in China.
The year 1927 saw Generalissimo Chiang Kai-Shek puree the communists from the ranks of the Kuomintang. This led the communist extremists in Malaya, With the assistance of five representatives of the Chinese Communist Party who landed in Malaya at the end of 1927. to break away from the central body and form an organisation of their own.
This was an important step, indeed a landmark, in the development of the Chinese-dominated Communist Party in Malaya.
During the inter-war period, the Malays began to realise that the large numbers of immigrants, linked with British economic interests, were having adverse
effects upon the Malay political position. The authority of the Sultanate was being gradually eroded in the interest of a more central administration. However, Malay nationalism before the Second World War lacked popular support and was not effective because of the provincial attitude of most Malays then. Real political awakening for the Malays came after the war.