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Why do Indonesians dislike Sino-Indonesians so much?

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xuechengfeng

I'm taking a course on Indonesian politics right now, and I'm in the early stages, and a recurring theme seems to be an intense dislike for Sino-Indonesians, even if they speak Indonesian better than Chinese, and were born there! Can anybody tell me the history on this?

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889

The role of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, indeed, throughout Southeast Asia, is a fascinating yet complex issue.

Practically all economic activity in Indonesia, from the largest enterprise to the neighbourhood toko, is controlled by ethnic Chinese. Walk into any business anywhere in the archipelago -- it's quite a sprawling archipelago, remember -- and the boss will almost certainly be ethnic Chinese; you'll probably be able to speak Chinese with him. Almost as certainly the workers will not be. This disparity of wealth and power, along with failure to assimilate and the common contempt of ethnic majorities for ethnic minorities, has long made ethnic Chinese the target of hatred in Indonesia. Whenever there're strife and riots, ethnic Chinese always become the primary victims. Thus the 1965-66 coup that brought Suharto to power, ostensibly directed as it was towards the PKI, the Indonesian Communist Party -- which had strong ties with Beijing -- witnessed horrific massacres of ethnic Chinese.

But it's a topic that deserves a book, not a paragraph.

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rita_w

Well, i am one of millions indonesian born chinese. Being born in Indonesia isn't that bad as people ever thought, even sometimes have questions come to mind, why do I have to be born in Indoensia, not in other countries? But I do believe, maybe most of us will have that thought. I speak chinese, particularly tio ciu, and i also speak indonesia. Lucky me was born in Pontianak, west borneo, where chinese still speaks chinese mother languages. Leaving Pontianak, I have my university degree in Jakarta, the capital city. Here in Jakarta, I met many chinese from other provinces in Indonesia..And yes, comes to our topic, that they even speak indonesian better than chinese. Is it wrong? I dunno, but sometimes I just felt that it's too bad, chinese even cannot speak chinese..They speak only bahasa. But believe me, still there are many chinese in Indonesia know how to speak chinese..:P

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amperel

rita, your situation is understandable. i heard you guys can't even have a chinese name on paper?

but if u want to talk about sad - i think it's even sadder that there are still many chinese in malaysia/singapore - which unlike indonesia has a flourishing chinese community - cannot read/write chinese and can't speak mandarin (tho usually they do speak some kind of dialect at home).

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ananda

well, the phenomena of chinese in southeast is a quite interesting

topic. My mother's father was one of them. He went to Burma during

the earlier of 20 century with her sister, no doubt that they nearly

had nothing, most of their buddies died on the road or on the

destination, but they finally became rich businessmen by hardwork.

They of course shouldn't be the target of hatry because they became

rich not by the power or cheat.

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wiz_oz

The complex situation the huaqaio are in down in south east asia deserve a book really.

But some basic insight...

Amperel enquire why some chinese cannot read or write chinese even with a flourishing chinese community. Just use Malaysia as an example.

Under British rule, English is the official language ie it was used for business ,in school and in corresponences with the government. The choices available to a chinese was basically he can go to an english medium school or he can go to a malay or chinese or tamil (indian) school. A lot do go to chinese school but their education could be severely handicapped. The chinese school system basically stopped after high school. There are no chinese university after that. You have to go overseas. If you want to go to a local university you have to know English.The chinese school does not have much government funding and support. And if you want to go to UK to study, you go to an english school.

Most of those who can not read and write chinese goes to the english school.

A lot of chinese parent are not educated themselves. They can speak to their children in chinese but are in no position to teach them to read and write chinese. That is why a lot of chinese can only speak a dialect and the language they can read /write in is malay or english. The chinese community is often a good mix of various dialect eg cantonese, hakka, hokkien etc. Often the predominant dialect is used in each district eg cantonese is used in Kuala Lumpur and Hokkien in Penang. Thus a cantonese in Penang will likely speak hokkien only while a hokkien in Kuala Lumpur will speak cantonese.

After independence, the local malay came to political power. After so long under a foreign power, they have to make sure that they will be the dominant community. Thus the local language will have to take priority...Nowadays the majority of chinese goes to the government school.

The fact that china became a communist country did not help at all. The local malay fear that communism will be extended via the chinese community. Remember the domino theory......

(This is also one of the reason why Indonesia does not trust the chinese there)

This is a very simple scenario....Things are actually more complex.

BTW, a lot of the young chinese in Australia (esp the 2nd or more generation) here do not read and write chinese as well. I think it is quite inevitable that this assimilation goes on.

And it is not just the chinese. This happens to the greek,italian,polish etc etc in USA and Australia and elsewhere.

It also happen to the manchus and the mongols in the bygone dynasty, I presume. There must be a lot of their descendants in China today.

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Ian_Lee

I think it is kind of stereotype that every Chinese Indonesian is rich and exploits the locals.

I know a friend in Hong Kong marrying a "mail order bride" who was a Chinese Indonesian from Kalimantan (the Borneo part of Indonesia) in the '90s (before the riot).

She said that there were so many Chinese Indonesian girls aiming to look for spouse in Hong Kong that there were half dozen "mail order brides" in every Jakarta--HK flight.

My friend was divorced and lived in public housing by that time. But the bride did not complain at all.

For Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore, in fact the ethnic Chinese population there retain Chinese heritage to a degree much more than anywhere else. In Europe, Japan, North America and South America, Chinese heritage wanes once it is out of Chinatown. Just ask the second generation ABC, BBC, CBC,.....etc., who can speak and read fluent Chinese?

But to a certain degree, many second or third generation ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia still can.

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TSkillet

There is a book that deals - at least in some depth, if not super in-depth with the topic of huaqiao across south-east asia (and there are similarities - most especially in Vietnam where many if not most of the boat people were ethnic Chinese) and Malaysia which suffered through anti-Chinese rioting in the 50s and 60s.

It's called "Sons of the Yellow Emperor" by Lynn Pan - it's a history of Chinese dispora - and a lot of the reasons mentioned above apply everywhere from the Philippines to Irin Jaya.

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Ian_Lee

Considering that the 7-8 million ethnic Chinese live in a less than amicable environment encircled by over 100 million jealous and hostile Moslems, in addition to the less-than-helpful PRC foreign policy during its first 30 years, what the ethnic Chinese in Singapore and Malaysia have achieved there is quite amazong.

Yes. There are a lot of compromises made by the Chinese in Southeast Asia. But politics is based on compromise especially if you are dwelling and making a living on a foreign land.

Just compare the scenario with another similar region -- The Jews in Israel also surrounded by a swath of hostile and jealous Moslem neighbors.

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chengdude

As an introduction to the issue of market domination by ethnic minorities, the best single volume that has dealt with this topic globally is Amy Chua's WORLD ON FIRE...although the thrust of the book is really about how blindly following a market economy only exacerbates existing imbalances and inflames ethnic hatreds. I believe she pegged the figure in Indonesia as 3% of the population (ethnic Chinese) controlling 70% of the private economy...that figure is probably a bit dated, though.

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