The Maritime Connection

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This video program features two case studies that focus on maritime countries in the region of Southeast Asia and South Pacific: Indonesia: Tourist Invasion and Multicultural Malaysia. The cultural impact of economic development poses a unique challenge for both Indonesia and Malaysia. While each struggles to become industrialized, the ethnic composition and cultural variety of their people present their own set of promises and problems.

The first case study, Indonesia: Tourist Invasion, examines Bali, an island in the Indonesian archipelago. The government supports tourism development for the economic benefits it brings to Indonesia, including training and employment for the Balinese people as well as foreign currency from both tourists and property investors. A large resort area, Nusa Dua, serves as a magnet for tourists from across the globe. The growth of the Nusa Dua complex provides employment opportunities for the local population and other Indonesians while diverting migration from the crowded capital city of Jakarta.

But tourist development is not without problems. Kuta, the island's oldest tourist area, displays overdevelopment, crowding, cultural dislocation, and environmental damage -- the results of tourism gone rampant. With the influx of large numbers of foreigners, the Balinese worry about the erosion of traditional culture, religion, and family values.

The update to this case study includes commentary by Dr. Melinda Meade and discussion of Indonesia's physical geography, development of the tourist industry, and its effect on indigenous cultures.

The second case study, Multicultural Malaysia, examines Malaysia, a country at the historical crossroads of maritime trade between China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula. Malaysia's ethnic composition consists of approximately sixty percent Malay, thirty percent Chinese, and ten percent Indian. The village of Rengit, located 183 miles (300 kilometers) southeast of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, provides insight into the relationship among people of different ethnic groups. Many farmers in the region are ethnic Malay who grow oil palms, the main source of income for most of Malaysia's farmers. In Rengit, as in much of Malaysia, ethnic Chinese often act as commercial brokers, in this case for the local oil palm trade.

As more ethnic Chinese develop business opportunities in Malaysia, their growing economic power and land holdings are changing the structure of the agricultural and urban sectors. The resulting Chinese economic dominance led to riots in 1969, pitting Malays against Chinese. To reduce the economic gap among different ethnic groups and to promote social harmony, the government embarked on a policy of Bumiputera or "Malays First." The policy begins with education and employment and extends across the entire range of social relations.

Rather than allow economic forces create disproportionate power for one ethnic group over others, Malaysia's policy of Bumiputera strives to balance customs, lifestyles, and educational opportunities, even as preferences for the Malay majority are promoted. The resulting peaceful coexistence of Malaysia's different ethnic and religious groups has contributed to the country's booming economy and remarkable growth over the past twenty-five years.

Updates to this program include Dr. Melinda Meade commenting on government policies to encourage greater economic integration for Malay people, the diversity of ethnic and religious groups, and Malaysia's desire to become a telecommunications hub to rival Singapore.

Find additional resources, including primary source materials, interactives, and downloadable print materials, at:

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