COMMENT People say that Hang Li Po was a Ming Dynasty princess who was brought specially to Malacca to make Sultan Mansur Shah happy - and happy he was, as she became his fifth wife.
Admiral Zheng He brought her with him when he landed in Malacca on the way to other parts of South-East Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The admiral was ordered by Emperor Yong Le in 1402 to take control of international trade - his first fleet alone comprised 19 treasure ships that could carry 20,000 men.
Zheng He became one the most successful international traders in history.
What saved the Malay Kingdom, and Malacca in particular, was the stupid decision of Emperor Hong Xi to scuttle and ban international trade missions altogether 20 years later.
Hong Xi believed that exposing Chinese merchants to international trade would make them so powerful they could threaten the monarchy.
He also thought that the exposure to external influences through trade was socially destabilising to China.
Zheng He’s good work ended in 1435 when China became a reclusive power once again.
But not to worry. Prime Minister Najib Razak’s new friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping has brought back China’s influence in the Malay States and Borneo in more pervasive ways than Hang Li Po could imagine.
The new friendship started because the US shamed our Prime Minister on the world stage. As a Bugis warrior, Najib certainly must not forgive the US for its handling of 1MDB. As a warrior, he must show he has influence and power to help Uncle Sam’s enemy - China.
Sarawak and Sabah have seen more Chinese engineers and China-led projects as never before. This massive injection of Chinese money and resources will dramatically change the states into economic powerhouses - now, they are giving special passes to Chinese tourists as well.
Pahang, Johor and Perak are also full of Chinese projects. Malacca will be full of Chinese businessmen next year when the port and the airport are extended. This is not to mention projects such as the new rail line, the port, power plant and Bandar Malaysia.
We have never been peacefully conquered like this before. The amount of contracts and business deals that the prime minister brought to China probably exceeds RM300 billion and much more will be forthcoming.
I need to go and see Hang Li Po’s well in Malacca and drink some water for good fortune. As a Malay I must start learning Mandarin if I want to get a job. I may want to do some business where I hope I will be given the crumbs by Jack Ma and the Alibabas of the world.
I now accept with humility that I was wrong and Najib was right: if you have money, you are king. Our prime minister might have a few billion from his “family fortune” but he, too, must accept that President Xi Jinping has more. The one who has more is the real king.
Hang Li Po, I know you are smiling with satisfaction from the heavens, but have pity on us. Don’t take away everything from my beloved country. Leave some for my grandchildren to savour.
ZAID IBRAHIM is a former minister, in charge of law. This piece was originally published in his blog.