THE new MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting struck the right note when he asked the Chinese community to reinvent itself in order to remain competitive in this rapidly changing globalised environment.
The Chinese in general, being proud of their ancient culture and long traditions, live in a complacent and almost self-sufficient world, reluctant to change and quite oblivious to what’s happening in the outside world.
The much-cherished Chinese maxim that teaches them to remain unchanged in the face of a myriad of changes proved suicidal to the Qing Dynasty when it was overrun by the British-led allied forces and eventually perished in a revolution led by Dr Sun Yat Sen.
In the business world of today, many Chinese-operated sundry shops in Malaysia are closing or reeling under the onslaught of hypermarkets. Small and medium-sized enterprises are feeling the heat of globalisation as better and cheaper Chinese goods flood the marketplace.
But this is only the beginning.
The Chinese community, indeed Malaysians as a whole, must learn how to think out of the box. As our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad has emphasised time and again, the future is science and technology and Malaysians must continue to upgrade themselves.
The k-economy is knowledge-based. It is no more making nuts and bolts but making “intelligent” nuts and bolts; it is no more making cars, but making “intelligent” cars that can think for the safety and convenience of the drivers.
To do that, it is imperative for us to re-examine the role of our universities. Instead of only churning out graduates, these institutes of higher learning must also lead in research and development and play the role of incubators in nurturing new businesses.
What was said by Prof Yang Fujia, Chancellor of Nottingham University, at the recent World Chinese Entrepreneurs Convention in Kuala Lumpur was revealing.
He said that in 2000 alone, the eight research universities headed by Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) contributed US$7bil to the local economy and provided 8.5 million job opportunities. In the last 50 years, MIT alone has nurtured 4,000 technology-based companies.
This is the way to go if Malaysia is to survive among the fittest. Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman, targeted to have 3,800 students by next year, would be on the right track if it is geared to be a university of entrepreneurs.
Given the proper environment, it could contribute in a big way to the emergence of the Chinese as a community with a visionary and progressive mindset.
But just Utar is not enough. Not even all the universities. It must be a national endeavour involving the Government and the people if we are to see the likes of Sony, IBM, Nokia and Swatch emerging from the local scene.