Malaysia’s capital city is named after the muddy conditions that defined life in the tin mining towns that dotted the Klang River valley throughout the 19th century. From these humble beginnings, a modern and vibrant economic hub has grown. Second only to Singapore for its quality of life, infrastructure development and economic vibrancy, Kuala Lumpur—also known as KL—is in many ways the face of a Malaysia that has evolved from a raw resource-exporting economy. The Petronas Towers are the defining feature of the city’s skyline and headquarters for the eponymous state-owned oil and gas firm. Though oil and natural gas exports have slowed, Malaysia’s offshore fields still hold potential, and its relatively small population (at least, compared to giant neighboring Indonesia) mean that exports may rise in the future. But KL isn’t waiting. From textiles to solar panels, automobiles and chemicals, Malaysia’s steadily diversifying and value-added manufacturing belies the often-convoluted political process of the country’s diverse, multi-ethnic society.
For more on Malaysia’s future, see Chapter 9 of The Accidental Superpower and Chapters 8 and 12 of The Absent Superpower.