I grew up in the 90’s. Growing up, Chinese-Malay relations were never really an issue at all, until recently, maybe 2010 onwards (and worsening every year). Never blatant, but we feel it lurking in the shadows. Again, Chinese-Malay relations are also interlaced with the relation between Muslims and Non-Muslims.
(Under the Article 160(2) of the Malaysian Federal Constitution, a “Malay” means a Muslim who habitually speaks the Malay language and conforms to the Malay custom.)
A highlight in the Chinese-Malay relation would be the May 1969 riots (search “13 May Incident”), which was largely speculated to be politically motivated, also made possible due to the imbalance racial composition of political parties (although not strictly racial-based).
After that though, I cannot recall any major issue. Perhaps just small hiccups here and there created by extremists / insensitive people from both races, playing with fire.
If we were to go way back, the Malays were often considered as the original people of the land along with the aborigines, “bumiputera” or “sons of the soil”. Chinese on the other hand, were considered immigrants, brought in during the British colonial era as labour workers. Of course, there are also Chinese merchants who settle down here. Again, immigrants.
Owing to the status of the sons of the soil, Malays are afforded special rights even under the Federal Constitution. Post 13 May Incident, the New Economic Policy was introduced to readjust socio-economy, with a view of moving the Malays from agriculture/farming/fishi
But then again, considering the question is on Malay-Chinese relations instead of Malay-NonMalay relations, the above should not be the issue.
Many Malaysians are afraid to comment because the country is slowly becoming ultra-sensitive towards inter-racial issues. Sensing that, the government under the current Prime Minister Najib Razak (fun fact: fondly referred to as “Jib Gor” or “Brother Jib” by the Chinese) introduced “1Malaysia”. But then again, that also concerns all races.
I could go on and on, and I haven’t even begun on how religion mixes into all this. At this juncture, I guess it suffices to say that at my generation (Generation Y), Chinese-Malay relations are good. We used to be able to make racist jokes about each other knowing we are joking. Now, with tension building, and sentiments getting stronger, people are wary. To be safe, we keep the jokes to our close friends, or joke about our own race.
At the end of the day, when it comes to Malay-Chinese relations, the majority of the population would rather see themselves as “Malaysians” more than “Malay as opposed to Chinese” or vice versa. Or at least I would like to believe so, since my best friend is Malay.
I should also mention that the primary difficulty in a Malay-Chinese relationship is getting the family’s blessing, Muslim to accept Non-Muslim and vice versa. In Malaysia, a Muslim can only get married to another Muslim, so a Chinese who is not a Muslim would have to convert. Yes to the Peranakan explanation answered previously.
For now, I would say Malay-Chinese couples are significantly less than other interracial relationships, but they are not so rare as to not exist. I myself have dated a Malay, whose father is Malay and mother is Chinese. I know a few other such couples as well.