By 20th century, Britain had already asserted its influence to almost all of Malay Peninsular, effectively in control of the region’s domestic political and economic affairs. Malaya (as it was known then) was a great economic importance to the British empire due to two things – rubber and tin. The region was among the largest supplier of rubber and tin in the world and contributed immensely towards the rapid industrialisation in the West. Almost half of the world’s rubber supply came from Malaya and that put Britain as a dominant global market player in such commodity.
The huge importance of rubber even attracted the attention of an American trust aided by a man with considerable political and financial influence. With the emerging industries centred on automobile production, the demand for rubber in the United States was seen as a phenomenon worthy of exploitation, and based on this news article, the domination of world rubber market was done through the control of the majority source of this commodity – Malaya. However, a British businessman saw this as a harmful and an uncompetitive act.
And a rather interesting line from this news article which said, “The supply comes from the wild trees of Borneo, and as they are cut down, the Borneo supply is bound to run short.” I’d say this was a Western capitalism at its ‘best’ when it comes to natural environment.
Article source: The Milwaukee Sentinel, 30 December 1910