The Cold War: Country Trends--Malaya

Figure 1.--Britain suffered substantial damage during World War II, both during the Blitz and subsequent V-1 and V-2 attacks and it was essentially bankrupted by the effort to resist the Germans and Italians as well as the Japanese. And the shift to Socialist policies after the War impaired the post-War recovery. As a result, it was not in a position to resist Communism around the world. One place it did make a stand was in Malaya. Here British commandos are at the port of Plymouth being deployed to Malaya in 1950. The press cation read, "Where you Off to, Myte?: A little boy, with envy and admiration written on his face, breaks into British Commando ranks at Plymouth to ask one of the soldiers where he was going. The troops are headed for the Malayan area to reinforce garrisons already there." The photograph was dated July 5, 1950. At the time, the North Koreans had just invaded Sout h Korea. Britain would also participate in that conflict.

Malaya and Singapore had been British colonies before World War II. The Malays and Chinese (mostly in Singapore) were shocked at the ease with which the Japanese defeated the British who had seemed so overwhelming powerful before the War. The Japanese brutalized the Chinese, but behaved in a more restrained fashion toward the Malays. The British drove the Japanese out of Burma, but Japan surrendered before operations were launched against the Japanese in Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese occupation with its propaganda of Asia for Asians promoted the growth of anti-British nationalist and Communist sentiment. Thus the British when they returned encountered growing nationalist sentiment, especially among the Malays. The British because of the World War II damage to their economy and austerity at home and partly because of the Labour Government's socialist policies, was forced to withdraw from many Cold War conflicts such as aiding the Greek Government. The British decided, however, to make a stand in Malaya. Britain committed itself to an expensive and protracted struggle against the developing Communist insurgency in Malaya. The British pursued this effort without American support because it was a colonialist effort. Primeminister Attlee framed what came to be called the Malayan Emergency (1948–1960) as part of a Soviet attempts to use the local Communist party to support its world-wide expansion efforts. During the Cold War era when the Western democracies were indeed threatened by Soviet expansionism, the British claims were largely accepted. Scholars now see the Emergency as a largely localized effort conducted by a variety of not very well coordinated disparate groups, of which the Communists were a major part. Geography limited the ability if the Soviets or the Chinese to support and supply the insurgent forces. Unlike Vietnam, there were no gue rrilla operations before and during World War II nor did Malaya have a border with China. Another factor was the largely Muslim religion of the Malays which affected Communist recruitment.


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Created: 5:17 PM 11/22/2013
Spell checked: 10:31 PM 11/23/2013
Last updated: 10:32 PM 11/23/2013