Southeast Asia

April 1, 2009

British claimed Singapore on January 29, 1819 and set up trading ports that served as stops for their ships that traveled the India-China sea routes. Singapore became the major trading port in Southeast Asia and had three crucial advantages over other colonial port cities. Its strategic location allowed most ships trading between China, India, and Europe to pass Singapore. Second, Singapore was a free port, so the Dutch in Latvia and Spanish in Manila put tariffs and charges on imports. Third, Singapore was linked with the British commercial and industrial empire, and by the nineteenth century Britain became the dominant colonial power. The opening of the Suez Canal and demand for tin and rubber also made Singapore one of the world’s busiest ports, where products form Southeast Asia are collected, packaged, and re-exported. Investment finance came through Singapore, where tin and rubber were exported, and it was the warehousing and distribution center where imports were collected needed for growing European population. Singapore also did little manufacturing, such as food and clothes, and they did some food processing.

British also claimed colonies in the Malay Peninsula and in Burma (Myanmar). Malaysia also had large deposits of tin and rubber, which the economy was based on, and prospered due to mining and plantations; the world’s first rubber plantations were in Malaysia. Over time, Malaysia became the world’s largest major producer or tin, rubber, and palm oil. These three commodities, among other raw materials, firmly set Malaysia’s economy. Apart from agricultural products, Malaysia also has natural resources in forestry and minerals. In terms of agriculture, Malaysia’s top exports are natural rubber and palm oil, along with cocoa, pepper, pineapple, and tobacco. In terms of forestry resources, logging and the expansion of timber production are substantial contributions to the economy. Minerals of some importance include copper, bauxite, iron-ore, coal, granite, and small quantities of gold. Malaysia has a diverse range of flora and fauna. International trade and manufacturing plays a large role in its economy. The British encouraged the Chinese to immigrate to Malaysia in need for workers; culture clashes between the two are still seen today.

The British also claimed colonies in Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Bangladesh has natural gas, arable land, which is suitable for farming, timber, and coal. Pakistan also has extensive natural gas, some petroleum, coal, iron-ore, copper, salt, and limestone. The Indus River also flows throughout the country which allows access to the Arabian Sea. Hong Kong has an outstanding deepwater harbor, suitable for trade stations and ports. Textile and manufacturing industries grew with the help of population growth, and the economy grew and was driven by exports. Sri Lanka has limestone, graphite, mineral sands, gems, phosphates, and clay. Brunei has petroleum, natural gas, and timber.


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