Malaysia: At A Crossroads

Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad – Asia’s longest serving premier – is about to step down after more than two decades at the helm. His tenure at the head of the National Front coalition government has seen it transformed from a sleepy Asian backwater into an economic dynamo to rival neighbouring Singapore. But it has also witnessed the continuing erosion of democratic freedoms and the emergence of unprecedented levels of corruption. For many in the west, Mahathir is an enigmatic figure, but predicting the future without him may be yet more difficult.

The World Today
3 minute READ

Graham Brown

Research Officer, Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity, Oxford University

As one of the most vociferous proponents of ‘Asian Values’, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has never been shy to criticise the west. Assuming the premiership in 1981, he announced a ‘Look East’ policy, with Japan and South Korea held up as models of development. After a diplomatic spat with Britain, he also instituted a ‘Buy British Last’ ruling, whereby the public sector was instructed to contract supplies from British companies only as a last resort. More recently, the prime minister has emerged as a prominent critic of globalisation, which he sees as a new form of colonialism. Through globalisation, he says, the west ‘wishes to control the world again.’

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