This article proposes resource extraction politics as a lens to analyze the relationship between Malaysian Chinese (or Mahua) literature and the global literary economy. Rather than ascribe Mahua literature to its present national boundaries and diasporic communities, the article locates its formation in inter-imperial nodes of trafficked labor and art production, as well as a global system of colonial plantations. The article revisits Zeng Huading's 曾華丁 (1906–1942) short story (1928) and Ba Ren's 巴人 (1901–1972) historical drama (1949) about the myth of five Chinese coolies and their execution in 1871 for murdering a Dutch foreman in a Deli tobacco plantation in East Sumatra. The Anglo-Dutch migration corridor, or the cross-straits coolie trade between the two imperial jurisdictions of Penang (Straits Settlements) and Medan (East Sumatra), now part of Malaysia and Indonesia respectively, was one Nanyang connection, but these writers have been discussed separately within Mahua and Yinhua 印華 (Indonesian Chinese) contexts. Ba Ren, in particular, is studied as a leftist writer who contributed artistically to the Indonesian and Chinese revolutions in the 1940s and 1950s. Here, the article rethinks Ba Ren's legacy within a Mahua corpus, and Zeng Huading's fiction within a cross-straits history of labor. This ecological reading of their works also highlights their critique of Mahua's peripheralization within a world economy and global literature.

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