Liew, whose SP Setia Bhd is behind some of Malaysia’s biggest property developments including in Putrajaya, said statistics show there are more Chinese-controlled firms than Bumiputera companies on the local bourse.
“Statistically, Forbes magazine shows that the Malaysian-Chinese can prosper over the last 30 years,” said the SP Setia president and chief executive.
According to Forbes, Chinese-controlled companies account for 37 per cent of market capitalisation among the top 100 Malaysian listed companies, compared to Bumiputera equity of seven per cent.
Chinese individuals also control 73 per cent of the wealth owned by the top 40 richest Malaysians and make up eight of the top 10 richest Malaysians.
“Have we fared badly?” Liew asked rhetorically.
He pointed out that Chinese small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) had done very well too, and that their owners could even afford to buy the multi-million ringgit bungalows put up by his company.
“One Chinaman want to build a bungalow of RM40 million!” he said.
“That’s wealth. Where did wealth come from? The wealth came in the last 30 years of so-called NEP (New Economic Policy) policies.”
Liew also argued that the increased presence of government-linked companies (GLCs) in the market meant that Chinese businesses would soon have no choice but to tap into Malay expertise and funds if they wished to increase revenues in the future.
“Today, the government has money through GLCs (government-linked companies)... They can buy buildings off you, they can buy your supermarkets, your hypermarkets, you shopping centres from you. That will give you a big source of income,” he said.
“It’s up to us. Do we want to tap into their expertise, financial abilities? Do you want to tap into their so-called connections?”
However, Liew stressed that such Malay-Chinese cooperation required a spirit of give-and-take.
“Before we start asking them to give us more liberal policies... we must also allow them to come to our sector, things that we are good at. If not, this so-called collaboration will not happen. They will not allow us,” he said.
“If we were to say we want to take a bigger pick from this economic cake from under the NEM (New Economic Policy)... we must also learn to give in.
“We must also learn to take a step back. We must also learn how to live with their culture, their mindset.”
He explained that the Malays still feared that the Chinese would “run over them and kill all of them” if they (the Chinese) were not bound by pro-bumiputera policies.
“That is their mindset. Whether it’s inferiority complex or whether it’s upbringing, whether it’s cultural... it is there,” he said.
Liew reminded delegates that it was only pragmatic for Chinese companies to link up with Malay ones as business was all about profit, not politics.
“We’re in business. Our job is to make money,” he said.
“Are we prepared to be a small fish in big market or the big fish in a small market? It’s up to us.”