The period of the 1930s was a relatively calm period in Southeast Asia. There are at least a couple of reasons for why this was the case.
First, many anti-colonial movements had been put down by that point and many revolutionaries had been imprisoned, exiled or executed.
Second, many people were benefiting by working with the system. It’s the system they were born into. They didn’t know any other, and they strove to succeed in it, and there were plenty of people who were successful.
I was reminded of that when I came across this advertisement from a Singaporean newspaper from 1935. It is an advertisement for a producer of high-quality luggage. Made in Shanghai with materials from Germany and the US and sold in Singapore, this kind of luggage was for people who didn’t carry their luggage. . . because they didn’t need to.
They also didn’t need to “rock the [colonial] boat.” The cruise they were on was going just fine. There may have been aspects of life in a colony that they found distasteful at times, but their elite position in that world made it tolerable, and for the most part I’m sure that life for people like this was probably pretty enjoyable.
And last but not least, they looked damn good!