Malaysia’s longest-serving Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad warned that the US is trying to start a war with China over Taiwan. He also explained how imperialism is rooted in capitalism and detailed its economic exploitation of the Global South.
“Malaysia’s Mahathir says US seeking to provoke war in Taiwan,” Associated Press
“Mahathir: We can learn a lot from China,” 2019 interview with The Star
Quotes from the 2001 PBS interview:
INTERVIEWER: I want to take you back to the end of the Cold War, [when] you said that capitalism was capitalism with a big “C,” not democracy. Can you tell me what you meant by that?
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD: It’s quite obvious that when the Eastern bloc was still there, it was a bustle between capitalism and communism. Once communism was defeated, then capitalism could expand and show its true self. It’s no longer constrained by the need to be nice, so that people will choose their so-called free-market system as opposed to the centrally planned system.
So because of that, nowadays there is nothing to restrain capital, and capital is demanding that it should be able to go anywhere and do whatever it likes.
INTERVIEWER: You also said that capitalism can be linked to the new imperialism; instead of bombs, instead of nuclear warheads, capital is the new weapon. Can you tell me what you mean by that?
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD: In the old days you needed to conquer a country with military force, and then you could control that country. Today it’s not necessary at all. You can destabilize a country, make it poor, and then make it request help. And [in exchange] for the help that is given, you gain control over the policies of the country, and when you gain control over the policies of a country, effectively you have colonized that country.
INTERVIEWER: [Friedrich von] Hayek, [Milton] Friedman and others would say that free markets work. Free markets should be left alone to rule the world, and prosperity would follow. What do you think would happen if free markets are left unregulated?
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD: If they are left unregulated then they will profiteer, because the market is all about making profits, as much profit as possible, and they will do anything in order to increase their profits. One [thing companies will do] is to become monopolies. If they could monopolize something, they could corner the market; then they can enrich themselves. What happens to people — that is irrelevant to them.
They are not in the business of attending to the social needs of people. They are only thinking about their profit, and if you allow the market to go free, unregulated, then the world will face monopolies of giants who will not care at all about what happens to people, what happens to the consumers, for example.
Of course, a big company can be more efficient, probably do more R & D. But you reach the stage of a monopoly, you don’t have to bother, because whatever you produce people have to buy anyway. That will lead to a deterioration in the quality of things. So it is not true at all that a free market will ensure a democracy. It doesn’t.
There must be a balance between a free market and some regulations which are essential in order to safeguard the interests of consumers and of people in general.
We believe in trade, but we didn’t believe in just being a market for other people. But the stress is on market opening. Even if you open your market to us, we have very little to sell other than raw material…. In terms of finished product, we must sell more raw material all the time in order to buy less and less finished product.
So when you talk about opening markets, you’re talking about the rich people who can manufacture goods with added value and selling it in our markets, not the other way around.
INTERVIEWER: In the early to mid-90s, we heard of the Washington consensus. Maybe you can explain what you felt was the Washington consensus. Here in Malaysia, did you feel that there was a new policy being pushed? What for you was the Washington consensus?
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD: Washington itself implied that this is something out of the rich Western countries, and if they agree on something that is to be imposed on the rest of the world, it means that there is no consultation. It should be a world consensus, not a Washington consensus.
Every time we are up against this understanding there, we find that they are all designed in order to be in their favor, to enrich them, in fact, and it would be at our expense. That is why we feel a need to resist the Washington consensus.
INTERVIEWER: Let’s talk more about the Washington consensus and the American desire for Asia to open her markets. Was the head of the IMF coming to you and saying, “What you should do is open your capital markets — it’ll make you prosperous”? Was there other talk of American free marketeers as evangelists, who were like missionaries going out to Asia and spreading the gospel of the free market? When did you sense this, and was anyone talking to you about this?
DR. MAHATHIR BIN MOHAMAD: I think it was very early on, long before globalization was being implemented or becoming a very common household word. Various delegations came from America, one of which was headed by [former Secretary of State Alexander] Haig, and they were insisting that we allow American banks to operate as national banks in this country.
We pointed out that if they come in, their size would smother the Malaysian banks. But [we were told] this is good for you, because they are going to bring in their expertise [and] efficiency, and things would be stimulated by their participation. We have a responsibility to protect our local banks. We told them that we are not ready yet for that. Wait until we are big enough, and then you can come in.
So very early on there has been this pressure to give national status to foreign companies. National status is what we use to protect our weak businesses, banks, and industries so that they have a chance to survive. But if you allow at that early stage for foreign companies to attain national status, then there’s no way we can protect our own businesses.
Of course, when globalization became a formal idea which everybody seemed to espouse, it is the same thing: the desire [to] give foreign companies national status in your country. We felt if we do that, then all our own businesses will be just swallowed up. All will just perish, so that is why we fear that globalization, as defined by the Western countries, is not going to be good for us, and we had a foretaste of that during the currency crisis.