Early Chinese immigrants in Selangor came from different places in China. Speaking different dialects immigrant communities hardly interacted. Aware of the importance of unity and inspired by European guilds, some Chinese merchants came together to establish the Commercial Bureau (today‘s Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry or KLSCCCI) as a platform for communication. The objective of KLSCCCI was to protect the interests and welfare of Chinese merchants and the larger Chinese community, including bridging the communication gap between the British colonial authority and the Chinese community. The role made it one of the most important organizational leaders of the Chinese community in Selangor.
Since its inception, KLSCCCI has witnessed several major historical events, including British colonization, the Second World War, Malaya’s independence and the formation of Malaysia. It has also led its members through several episodes of world and regional economic depression. KLSCCCI played a vital role in post-war nation building, which is indicated in the appointment of its first post-war president Lee Hau Shik as the country’s first Minister of Finance.
However, the journey of nation building was not a smooth one. The country has since undergone several major crisis, including the Malayan Emergency, Konfrontasi, separation of Singapore, the May Thirteenth Riot etc. In the early post-independence years, KLSCCCI exerted its influence through active political participation. Many KLSCCCI members who were elected parliamentarians and senators were directly involved in the country’s policy making. The implementation of the affirmative action agenda called New Economic Policy since 1970 posed a new challenge to KLSCCCI as it had to reconcile its support for the government’s efforts to close the economic gap between the rich and the poor, while also taking care of the welfare of its members and the larger Chinese community who were not so favored.
Entering the twenty first century, KLSCCCI and its members are now faced with challenges from the rapid changes in the world of domestic and international commerce.
This gallery is not just a recounting of KLSCCCI’s trailblazing past, but rather a window to look forward to the future.
Malaysian Chinese Research Centre (MCRC), University of Malaya
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Singapore National Library