FORMER Chinese president Deng Xiaoping once said: “It doesn’t matter if the cat is black or white, as long as it catches mice, it is a good cat.”
This famous phrase underlies the pragmatism at the heart of the Chinese psyche, and embodies the spirit of China’s rise from an underdeveloped country to a world superpower in a matter of decades.
Deng, who took over the reins in 1976 during a tumultuous period, opened up China, allowed free enterprise to flourish, and set the country on a trajectory of modernity and growth at a speed and scale unprecedented in modern history.
If there’s any lesson that Malaysia can draw from this, it has to be the pragmatism and single-minded determination to put the country’s well-being above all else.
Not all Western thinkers – most of whom were brought up with modern ideals like social liberalism – subscribe to the Chinese model of governance. But the fact is that the nation once known as the Middle Kingdom has given their Western counterparts a run for their money in areas that the Americas and Europe once dominated, such as artificial intelligence, big data and nanotechnology.
Back in Malaysia, we’ve just witnessed a change of government that, frankly, not many are comfortable with. Lots of labels were thrown at the hastily cobbled Perikatan Nasional, such as “backdoor government”.
As a person who sees results as being more important than lofty ideals, I subscribe to a more unorthodox view. To me, we have reached a stage where it doesn’t matter if the administration is a backdoor, front-door or windowless one. If it is a government that can deliver, we should, by all means, give it a chance.
Let’s face it. Since May 2018, Pakatan Harapan has been assailed by endless court politics revolving around the prime minister’s succession. Investors were jittery, and the political anxiety crept into the public delivery system.
In a survey conducted by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute before the recent political crisis, 81% of the Malaysians polled named domestic political instability as the most pronounced challenge in 2020.
The fact is that the instability is almost entirely PH’s doing. It was Anwar Ibrahim’s supporters who pressured Dr Mahathir Mohamad into fixing a retirement date. It was Dr Mahathir himself who quit, with no one pressuring him to do so. It was DAP’s overly strident stance that fuelled anxiety among Malay or Malay-dominated parties and the community.
And, this was made worse by PH’s ministers, who were largely inexperienced and gaffe-prone. How do you instil confidence when a PH minister, during a serious discussion with a diplomat, resorted to poking fun at the latter’s name with references like “Roti John”?
This is no laughing matter, considering what kind of diplomatic dispatches the embassy official sent back to his home country about Malaysia’s key policies, like those on defence and the economy, in the hands of such ministers.
I look at the collapse of the PH government as a political circuit-breaker. Like how a circuit-breaker kicks in as a protective measure when there is a power surge, PH fell because it was too erratic, with frequent clashes over competing interests and major lapses in delivery.
Let’s be pragmatic and give this new government a chance. We have spent enough time on political uncertainty, and worst of all, social anxiety, which, in a multiracial country, can lead to all sorts of undesirable things.
Let’s take a leaf out of the book of the late Deng, the architect of modern China, who, thanks to his foresight to put the country first, changed the course of Chinese history, and that of the world. – March 6, 2020.
* Dr Lee Kim Leng reads The Malaysian Insight.
* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight.