Three Corner Theory: In search for the Malaysian nucleus

The first supplementary theory injects a geopolitical lens to understand the inner contradictions of a plural society like Malaysia. And to realize the vision of Nasional Modenisme, it requires a pioneering theory that allows a Nasional Modenis to integrate the virtues from the three corners within Malaysia while eliminating elements that are radical.


17 min read


To Malaysians,

The pursuit for our national greatness is a treacherous process. Politics can be the art of the possible, but descends itself to degenerate opportunism when we forget that such art is to create the next best. Many remember the former without the latter, and so they ignore the mental fortitude needed to steer our nation amidst the changing landscapes. Our retrospection in analyzing history teaches us that major social change usually possesses the acute grasp of international phenomenon. Such was the 16th Century, such was the 21st and beyond. And that particular grasp had always produced grandiose thinkers with their visions, where they either planted the seeds of seismic change during their lifetime, or those that attain post-mortem immortal legacies.  

To Malaysians, 

It has come to a time where we bid our farewell to mediocrity and intellectual stagnancy. We have been so lazy to conceive ideals for the strength of this nation, but rather demote ourselves to mere economic machines while keeping our cynic self and criticize everything, but philosophize nothing. Problems are presented to us, but the lacklustre meaning of being ‘Malaysian’ strips us off a consolidated solution against such roots of decay. 

This nation is not a clear-cut entity, but a deeply contradicting one. To attain the first step for a stronger Malaysia requires a sound theoretical basis that tells us that the desired unity for a powerful national stride is to find our nucleus amidst three contradicting corners. We must remind all Malaysians that over-indulgence, subscription and addiction to one of the corners will stray us away from a greater leap. Because to Malaysians, this multicultural nation will remain mediocre when each reserved themselves to their own racial, spiritual and cultural corners, absorbing its essence but giving up a common rope all Malaysians resonate and hold onto. 

It is such philosophical decay accompanied with cynical ignorance that a group of young minds necessitates themselves to theorize a bold frame to explain Malaysia’s contradicting challenges. Because for our people to view the map without understanding our fate and place sets forth a path to perpetual irrelevance in the world. It is such fear that created today’s observation of the Three Corners surrounding Malaysia — The Developing Corner, Islamic Corner and the Confucian Corner — each playing a rotating basis without gaining eternal predominance. From these corners, we offer three necessities Malaysians must be aware of before embarking on the arduous struggle for national strength. 

One, understanding the Western school of thought is an inferior necessity. One trait of the Developing Corner is our lack of civilizational aptitude in construing our own influential worldview hence the willing acceptance of intellectual dominance by others. To subject Malaysia against the Asiatic theatre with the context of seeking national greatness, must we not trap ourselves in Western civilization thought. As we must admit that seeking greatness after colonial disruption holds nuances that the natural progress of the Western counterpart do not possess to understand. Thus the sole indulgence of Western approach is not enough for national strength.

 Two, understanding the Islamic school of thought is a national necessity. But the contradicting forces from the Developing and Confucian Corner tells us that the sole subscription of Islamic knowledge is not enough for national strength. So our intellectual struggle within Islamic civilization must be analysed from the Malaysian Three-Corner lens. Our theological understanding must hence align with the contradicting geopolitical environment we know as Nusantara. 

Three, understanding the Chinese traditional school of thought from a Marxist-materialist lens is a geopolitical necessity. It is the main driving factor of Malaysia’s Three-Corner Theory due to our proximity. Our intellectual struggle within Chinese civilization requires a conceptual model that synthesises its historical virtues through their ideological perspective. Opinions that glorify China as a capitalist nation ignore and forget their plateaus, plains and mountainous counterparts beyond the maritime coastal glory that secures Marxist-Leninist foothold in China. Our geopolitical understanding must hence possess such a model to allow Malaysia to navigate our national strength. But the sole addiction to this Confucian power will bring national decay. 

He who finds the centre between the three, finds the national greatness of Malaysia.

This preface henceforth serves as a call to all Malaysian thinkers, for we pioneered an ideational brief of the Malaysian contradiction, but remained of the need for further conception. We are aware of its inherent risks underlying such endeavour, and we only have one answer to offer 

Every revolutionary idea was once an antithesis to a thesis. What renders its successful replacement always lies in its internal righteousness, nobility, bravery and most importantly — the undying love for the betterment of its people. 

  1. Malaysia’s Three Corners: Our yearning for the national nucleus

Unity and greatness came about if a nation fuses international phenomenons to their national advantage. As a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious country, the intertwined set of ecosystems puts Malaysia in between three predominant Corners. The usage of ‘Corner’ under this theory is to warn this nation that overleanings to the deepest corners within one of these worlds inherently divide and devoid our national talents, thoughts and the creative vitality to advance our society collectively. As those content with today's Developing status create irrelevant Malaysians, those that solely subscribe to Chinese narratives create chauvinist racists, and those that solely endorse Islamic narratives create individuals forgetting national strength. And to prevent Malaysians from straying themselves to radical corners, no societal disciplines other than politics can stir this nation into its destined nucleus. By ‘politics’, Three Corner Theory implies theoretical pioneering before action, rather than the description below. 

Politics that merely seeks electoral possibilities without seeking the strategic next best only produce degenerate parasites that become political jobbers rather than political leaders. Politics today is primarily responsible for the crowded inrush of mediocre people into this field where constructive statesmanship to navigate Malaysia into the center of the Three Corners puts fear into these small minds as these parasites become inevitably jobless when their role is now ascertained via their creative genius. Herds like this do not even fathom the notion of responsibility because a stock of small-minds sees success through efficient blaming, the more trivial the better. While we demand a Malaysian leader with character and vitality to stir this nation to this nucleus, political jobbers demand equality of voice and power through the excuse of ‘majoritarian democracy’, valuing small-craftiness while saving room for another who is of similar mental calibre. It is therefore the introduction of Three Corner Theory that hammers a reminder to the Malaysian heads that even the frivolous daily affairs you go through, is influenced by one of these three corners. Your choice of language, education, literature, music, wisdom and ideal of ‘nation’ are inherently influenced from these three corners, by which some are positioned well, while some belonged to radical corners; today’s politics that values electoral small-craftiness and cynical sarcasm rather than adjusting Malaysia’s fragmented landscape is preparing this nation into perpetual mediocrity. Where its people hold anything but national consciousness, insofar that Malaysia is only a land where they are born, but never bearing its soul. From there, the collective effort from the political parasites and the people that indulge in their own radical Corners, together they drag Malaysia into mere geological existence, where Malaysia exists only because there is land at that time, but meaningless to civilization.  

The yearn for a nucleus therefore came from a blend of three necessities — geopolitical, national, inferior  — that requires theoretical courage to capture virtues from each corner, while eliminating the radical ones. Only with prior ideational victory, Malaysia can forge towards national political action.

  1. The Confucian Corner: Malaysia’s need to navigate China’s historico-ideological fusion

China, the rare civilization disguising itself as a state. As Malaysians, we must acknowledge the internal nature of China where it operates in historical continuity rather than a complete break from the past. What is eternal there is its eternal persistence. 

To Malaysians,

China is a nation with civilizational mystics (known today as Chinese characteristics), but was re-seen through historical materialism ever since Marxism came into China. China today is essentially adopting a Marxist-Leninist model with some adaptation into Chinese societal intricacies that formed Maoism. The best example is its thriving democratic centralism, or crudely known as an authoritarian regime.

Our geopolitical necessity told by the Three-Corner Theory came from the acknowledgement of reality surrounding our beloved land, air and sea. It is not only a national duty, but also a geographical one to commence a theoretical study on Chinese political behavior and its implications to Malaysia. But to deem such activity as a completed process is, however, wrong. Because the two other Corners surrounding Malaysia demand a theoretical breakthrough in China to grow from descriptive intellectual analysis to speculative politics. To find the Malaysian nucleus, we need our own conceptual model to produce its weltanschauung to create our desired equilibrium in the Asiatic theatre — especially the South China Sea. The Confucian Corner is not a scholastic contribution, but an intellectual battle to counter the internal challenges posed by this Corner. It is a small but substantial part of a puzzle for subsequent national philosophy to be built upon the secured national nucleus between the Three Corners. 

Hence the hypothesized model offered to Malaysia to conceive itself as a geopolitical driver in the Chinese-dominated Asiatic theatre comprises

Civilizational literature + Marxism + Leninism + Maoism + Western Thought

Such a tentative model becomes the comprehension tool against Chinese behavior and implications on Malaysia, especially on our Malaysian-Chinese populations. Our thinking within this model helps Malaysia to not only navigate ourselves with direction, but also be able to pinpoint the philosophical gaps in pushing Malaysian-Chinese closer to the nucleus of national unity. 

To Malaysians,

Let us all agree that the new grand battleground for super-dominance is in the South China Sea. History has shown us that great powers that persist have always dominated the maritime theatre; such was the 17th Century British Empire, such was today’s United States of America. To gain a victorious foothold on a landscape that no human can stand on, already binds the battle to not only tangible means, but a battle of abstract forms. 

Malaysia as a humble-size maritime nation with continental roots that lives beside a Marxist-materalist superpower, we cannot deny their civilizational depth is still supplying much of its political wisdom. The Asiatic theatre, to them, started as a battle of forms (型), which is carried out by the navigation of Wuxu (务虚) — the art of abstract thinking that seeks relative advantage rather than a mechanical ‘win or lose’ dynamic. Wuxu is itself an intellectual bucket comprising visions of the future, the ideal state of the nation and traditional philosophies. Coupling this with a Marxist-Leninist regime produces a nation that sees its grand design as attaining materialistic desires through an abstract sleight of hand — undisturbed by theological dogmas. Of course, that is not all to China’s approach to diplomacy. The mass eradication of poverty, the rapid growth of China economic and military might are all the fruits of its pragmatic policies, which is achieved by the practice of Wushi (务实).

For us to see such theatre without our own philosophical worldview, but merely subscribing to ‘neutrality’ is itself a reactive behavior awaiting its doom. Malaysia does not seek to offer a direction, but only reacts to China’s form; it thinks that ‘maintaining’ is victory, but forgets that the battle of forms is about relative dominance unhindered by time. To Malaysians, we must ignore the scholastic opinions that argued quiet diplomacy as something laudable. It is not. Mastery of reaction delays a counterpart’s progressive visions without offering something new to counter nor overhaul. We are celebrating the victory of benefit (利), which is limited to transient material gains, without realizing the Chinese victory of form is already taking place. From Chinese ignorance to the International Court of Justice ruling, Salami Slicing tactics and increasing intrusion to our waters are not anomalies at all, but their long-range acumen in positioning perception of power that ultimately bring about an inevitable acquiescence from nations like us, the Malaysians. 

To Malaysians,

We have to tell ourselves, when faced with a Marxist superpower that is also yearning for their great Chinese Renaissance, we have to admire their sense of unity and direction in such grand vision; compared to us, where all we have are 5-year slogans that are forgotten easily. But admiration must then serve as a reminder to us that national greatness comes with the accumulation of ‘form’. It is not a policy-level venture but a wholesale philosophical revolution that equips power. For such forms of strength to land upon us to enjoy, requires abstract forms that are aesthetic, spiritual and nationalistic that unite the hearts of this nation that elevate Malaysia to Pax Malaysiana — A Greater Malaysia. 

The Confucian Corner is hence a call for courageous thinkers to understand the thought of this materialist giant while seeking a nationalist path that forge forms of unity, balancing against the two other Corners. 

  1. The Islamic Corner: Harmonizing national greatness and religious pursuance

“The Asiatic theatre, to them, started as a battle of forms (务虚) — the art of abstract thinking that seeks relative advantage rather than a mechanical ‘win or lose’ dynamic. It is itself an intellectual bucket comprising visions of the future, the ideal state of the nation and traditional philosophies. Coupling this with a Marxist-Leninist regime produces a nation that sees its grand design as attaining materialistic desires through an abstract sleight of hand — undisturbed by theological dogmas.”

To Malaysians,

This nation is sitting at the next power juncture in civilizational history. While we have had various empires in the past, from Rashidun, Abbasid to the Ottoman Empire, today we have a potential transition between the United States and China with the latter living side by side with us. Facing a superpower where theological teachings are of no relevance to their dialectical materialist reality, to respond with radical adherence is a crude path for this nation. For Malaysia, the adaptive path for a continued struggle for national greatness requires us to harmonize geopolitics into theological understanding and practice. 

A proposition like this bears high risk, but a necessity upon observation shown from a Three-Corner lens. Nusantara and the Asiatic theatre is crowded with regimes that are capable of being fully secular in their global and regional governance compared to Arabia and the Middle East. Any mistakes in theological and jurisprudential misinterpretation bears a higher cost in the Asiatic theatre compared to the latter where parallel behaviors are foreseeable. So if the radical side of the Islamic Corner reveals Malaysia’s implicit acceptance of Arab exterior influences, the other Two Corners entails our national behavior to fabricate its own path. 

To Malaysians

Malaysia’s geographical proximity with regional Materialist powers, from Vietnam, Singapore to the Confucian circle requires us to contain Arab-Islamic influences due to its obvious incompatibility. The yearnings for national greatness subjected against the Three Corners render our expedient acknowledgement that the Islamic Corner is to be ‘part of’ a framework, sharing rotating status with the Confucian and Developing Corner. With unity as the prerequisite for national strength and greatness, the nature within Nusantara nudges us to contain the attempted theocratic position like the Middle East. Further, the Islamic world in Nusantara from a Three Corner lens also bears civilizational reasoning, chronologically. Today’s dogmatic centrality, uncreativeness and a secondary national consciousness are the natural consequence of such theo-intellectual completion. Our extraction from the ideational elements of Islamic history — subject it against the Western civilization chronology — revealed that Greek Hellenism played crossroad roles for both civilizational thoughts reflected today. 

While the Aquinas synthesis between Hellenistic superior reason with Christianity devised a path for Renaissance secular reasoning; the first Hellenistic wave (750-950CE / 130-340H) secures the ideological supremacy of Mu’tazilism and the reactionary forces from Ahl Sunnah Wal Jamaah. But the civilizational juncture begins here. While the Western post-Renaissance centuries and beyond sowed the conclusive seeds of secularism, the second Hellenistic wave (950-1260CE / 340-660H) sowed the conclusive seed of Islamic theological completion with Ghazali-Ashari thought that prospers contemporary Sunnist reactionist theology today.  

The Hellenistic influences on both civilisations both produces attempted intellectual synthesis between faith and reason, but each unilateral overhaul produces different victors. Ever since the second Hellenistic wave on the Islamic world produced giants like al-Ghazali that sealed Asharist victory, subsequent ideas from counterparts like Ibn Rusyd are relegated to dissenting ideas away from the Ashari-Sunni fora. Fast forward to the 21st century, just as many ideas spurring from the Western world today remain underpinned by secularism; Islamic ideational forms are underpinned by taqlid over humanist akal, itjihad and Kalam for higher calibre theological discourse. Ashari-Ghazalism influences Islam today to predominantly produce reformist and revisionist strands that is trapped alongside the same fate with contemporary sociopolitical phenomenon — piecemealism. Not just the Islamic World, several contemporary thoughts today have hailed the notion of reformism while striking off bold calls for major overhaul that seeks to pull off the old roots in exchange of the new. As a result, reformists eventually become revisionists that fantasises the past, while revisionists transitioned to reformist to appeal to the masses. Both seem to represent different positions, but merely both sides of the same coin bearing one similarity — the reluctance to seek overhauling change. They are capable of tightening the loosened screw while ignoring the rusted machinery. 

To Malaysians

As indicated by the Confucian Corner that highlighted the next power juncture happening at our doorsteps, the Arab-Islamic world thus becomes the source of divinity but irrelevant in Malaysia’s struggle in the Asiatic theatre that seeks navigation to our national greatness. The Muslim world throughout the Middle East is as historically completed as the West today, with only spontaneous ideas presenting itself here and there but incapable to reached its nucleus. But a 60 plus years of Malaysia holds different nuances that only itself understands — the Three Corners. The bold proposition of a new theological understanding in Nusantara derived not from doctrinal methodologies, where it solely came from an internal outlook, but a theoretical one that subjects itself against other powerful Corners surrounding Malaysia. Our Islamic Corner reminds us that the way of the desert is fundamentally different from the maritime-continental way. As our distinct stakes in capturing power amidst the Three Corners requires Malaysia to pioneer a national fortitude in igniting Akal and Itjihad that foster creative entities to raise the quality, strength and confidence in embracing national life.

The Islamic Corner is hence our second call for bold thinkers to contemplate and open a new path of national power amidst the two influential Corners. 

  1. The Developing Corner: The radical degeneracy of fatalism

To Malaysians,

We are aware that our nation is in a trap. Materially, it is an income one; mentally, it is a fatalist one.  To pull ourselves out from such a trap is not a feat of economists or policy experts, but a philosophical revolution to render the latter mentally extinct before national action. It is the Three Corner Theory that identified for us how destructive a radical fatalist is towards our national escape from the Developing Corner. The term ‘fatalism’, in general, connotes the mental attitude which accepts whatever happens as bound to happen. What is fatal about fatalism lies in its essence being increasingly prevalent in Malaysian society spanning across ages whereby all political toxicity, mediocrity and the lack of grandiose figures that shapes global history is not something to be ashamed of, but consoled by some peculiar ‘wisdom’ or ‘maturity  known as “it is what it is”. 

The fatalists in Malaysia had decayed Malaysia so much so that every flaw of ours are justified through sarcasm, cynicism and gain consolation that they are beyond such fora through such remarks. In the international arena, fatalists would ridicule the nation while remaining in their comfort zone, where the demands of their rise would be answered with pessimism and exposed their genuine uselessness in devising solutions. In the national arena, the evident need for a new philosophy would be teased about, while concurrently whining about the dreadful system they are living in, demanding something aspiratorial without realizing they themselves rejected it. Such dynamics are not reserved to the old generation, but also amongst the youth. In this nation, we must acknowledge the reality that the birth of a new generation does not connote automatic enlightenment towards a better national path. Today, more and more young minds are increasingly hopping on the fatalist bandwagon by using enhanced knowledge to repeat their predecessors rather than commencing the toughest endeavour — conceiving a new school of thought. These enhanced knowledge may be a stronger subject expertise and widespread awareness of intellectual thoughts, but when their scholastic calibre remained at ‘learning’ and not subsequent ideational reconstruction for his nation, it resulted in the toxic combination of fatalism and intellectual stupidity. 

To Malaysians,

To break out from fatalism as a developing nation is to first recognize the nation’s ideational dynamics when it comes to navigating foreign ideas. Under the Three Corner Lens, we have extracted three stages in terms of how the developing world adapted themselves to the mass importation of Western modernity. First, selective absorption represents an artificial westernization of matters, where we adopted their methods without authentic intention to modernize. Second, the learning stage represents an elevation from the first where westernization became systematic and would encounter the clash of local and Western ideological structures, generating a dichotomous relationship where the latter dominate public life while retreating the former into private realm.  Third, should the particular developing nation possess sufficient civilizational calibre with figures standing above fatalistic strands, it progresses to an ideational reconstruction that offers a philosophically monistic absorption of Western ideas into its national ideology. 

In the Asiatic theatre, one of the contemporary superpower that attained the final phase would be China when its New Culture Movement attempted to unilaterally overhaul its Confucian tradition, but eventually reshaped a monistic Sinicized framework containing Western modernism and foundationing Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as its future philosophical vantage point. Our analysis on the aforementioned Confucian Corner, especially the form and benefit analogy, is prevalent today solely because of its ideational reconstruction that allowed Chinese traditional edifice to be preserved and utilized even to this day. What renders the material trap for the Nusantara developing world lies in its inability to ideationally reconstruct modernity into a national framework that is owned by us. As a result, we absorb the virtues of the new without the stature to prevent its flaws. Learning ideas without a national hue creates citizens that are envious of the glory of others; they will neither possess the capacity to devise solutions to achieve the same heights, nor have the intention to do so.

Ideational reconstruction is hence the philosophical solution to escape from the fatalism inherent to the radical Developing Corner.  But from a Three Corner lens, it also reminds the unique challenge in Malaysia whereby philosophical monism is needed, similar to how China did, but on a scale of three-fold. Such propagation would shock the fatalists as they have always deemed themselves as trivial beings and spread poison about how Malaysia, as a minor nation, should just accept its geopolitical reality and maintain it as it is. Dirty streets, fragmented education, poor heritage preservation or lacklustre national identity are flaws that we must live with, with other fatalists elevating such speakers as ‘wise’. In response to them, our answer is an assertive no. 

Malaysia is a moderate-sized nation with a geography that requires sophisticated statecraft, and it is a fate Earth has given us. This is a nation with significant coastlines, a blend of maritime and dual-continents that requires grandiose minds to exploit our land, sea and aerial blessings. It bears higher probability in gaining maritime and air power due to our geography whereby consolidation is more doable than the archipelagic Indonesia where its thousand islands are actually a logistical torture, rather than a blessing. In sum, Malaysia seen from a Three Corner Lens is not just a maritime nation with continental roots, but also a moderate-size nation blessed with the geography of powerful polities. Malaysia is a nation fated to grandiose power in Nusantara and Southeast Asia as a whole, and only fatalists would deem it as blind optimism, since mediocrity was already their noblest achievement in life. 

To unlock such a strategic treasure chest, Malaysia will have to go through a much more difficult struggle than ever before. Victory lies not in elections or the accumulation of parasites in Parliament, but a three-fold philosophical reconstruction of foreign influences in order to seek one consolidated nucleus as the foundation for the national path of monistic thought subscribed by its people. But despite that theoretical triumph, it then needs another similar undertaking that incorporates this Malaysian nucleus into a national-based ideological structure before embarking on political action. Only that, our philosophical revolution can serve as the basis in rendering the chauvinists, fanatics and fatalists into extinction for the sake of national greatness. Malaysia would then finally escape from the mental traps of Developing Corner and receive its spiritual calling to uplift material mediocrity into creativity, innovation and history making in exchange for the national wealth of its people. 

  1. Conclusion

To Malaysians,

We must throw away the presumption that all forms of good come naturally upon patience. Throughout history, seismic change has always been a form of positive action, be it indirectly or directly. Unity is never an automatic creation, nor is greatness. It will never be realized by votes nor the cushioned chair within a building. For the nature of these, at best, are only ascertained via lip services where notions of victory presumes compromising and incongruous thoughts against the national fate. The assumption of youth being the better generation is also not an automatic fact, nor is their vitality. Today’s youth seek salvation in the private realm rather than awakening their national consciousness. It is one thing to indulge in the private sphere, but the notion of youths being greater starts crumbling down when they uplift wealth attainment to such unseen level insofar forgetting that it is the nation that enabled their political ignorance. For those possessing the latter, the lacklustre philosophical touch to them eventually rendered them severe fatalists and cynic, repeating the parasitic mistake our predecessors performed. Inspired by the wrong inspirations, proclaiming irrelevant proclamations, and acting on uncontemplated acts. For those lucky enough to obtain power, the disastrous revelation that the crude basis he fought for no longer persuaded him, his political journey will be all the more hollow and superficial and descend to the adoption of vulgar means in his defence. He no longer dreams of ideological implementation, for no man dies for something he does not believe, but hypocritically demands of his followers. 

If he holds on to power for another decade, he ultimately throws off his last virtues of leadership and begins to play the parasitic politics we see today. His consistency is of inconsistency, and finally became a political jobber where his position is left to feed his family and that national greatness becomes an occasional humor during teatime. The so-called great ‘youth’, in the end, is just another oldie awaiting the years to catch on to him. 

To Malaysians

Young minds can only be seismic catalysts for their nation when they embark on the toughest of the toughest, and that is the patient hedging of time by conceptualizing new thought before unleashing their actions. As the keyword is ‘seismic change’ that demands their deeds be embedded as textbook chapters rather than an irrelevant footnote. So for those that genuinely love their nation, Three Corner Theory is a philosophical call for such minds — to think macro and bear the courage to define.