"Outsider" status and economic success in Suharto's Indonesia




Reid, Anthony

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Crawfurd House Publishing


I was struck recently [1998] by an exchange I witnessed in a Canberra restaurant, when an Indonesian visitor (Dede Oetomo) was explaining his background as a "Chinese" Indonesian, albeit with quite a few Javanese or Balinese ancestors from the eighteenth and nineteenth century on the mother's side. My Filipino colleague (Rey Ileto) noted with some surprise -- "in the Philippines you would simply be a Filipino; in Indonesia I guess I would be a Chinese." This was rather troubling to this important Filipino intellectual, interpreter of Philippine identity & son of a prominent Philippine general. How is it that a substantial minority of urban Indonesian culture and language, and mixed ethnic background, is considered Cina and somehow alien in Indonesia, where the analogous group in Thailand or the Philippines is considered simply Thai or Filipino? And how is it possible that passions could be so strong around this single word that otherwise law-abiding Indonesian citizens should feel no shame in reviling, robbing, killing and raping their fellow-countrymen because of it? In other words, why has this category been constructed by many Indonesians to be outside their moral and political community, at least at times of social stress and breakdown? Perhaps most puzzling, why is it that the most terrifying outburst of anti-Chinese hostility since 1947, and potentially since 1740, should occur in 1998, a time when the whole Sino-Indonesian community is more culturally integrated into the mainstream than at any time in the past? (First two paragraphs of paper).



Indonesia, status, economic success, Chinese




Conference paper

Book Title

Perspectives on the Chinese Indonesians

Entity type

Access Statement

License Rights


Restricted until