Indonesian Chinese business communities in transformation, 1940-50




Twang, Peck Yang

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The 1940s ushered in a period in which pre-war established Indonesian Chinese businessmen began to decline while smaller Chinese businessmen began to emerge. This change was of tremendous and far-reaching consequences not only for the Chinese business communities but also for the political economic structure of Indonesia as a whole. Factors that caused this change were manifold. During the Japanese occupation a pattern of decline and emergence of Chinese businessmen began to set in. In the period that followed, anti-Chinese violence and its social and economic consequences contributed to the waning of many Chinese businesses, especially those owned by the Dutch-educated, whose business culture and social economic life differed greatly from the totok. The nlOst influential anti-Chinese force was the indigenous business class, which held a considerable measure of state power. The dominant nationalist faction's antiChinese economic designs and policy partly explain why many Chinese tended to be alienated from the Republican government. Such policy also contributed to the eclipse of Chinese businesses. Alienation from the Republican government and fleeing from Republican to Dutch areas, however, did not mean that Chinese businessmen were "pro-Dutch". Many Chinese businessmen 's political and economic relations with the Dutch had changed since the start of the Japanese occupation. New trade patterns disrupted the pre-war Chinese middleman network in the 1940s, and adversely affected Chinese business in general. On the other hand~ however, these trade patterns gave rise to anti-colonial "smuggling" trade. The most ferocious anti-colonial activity in the economic arena was launched by Chinese marine traders (mainly totok Chinese). This risky trade served to lay the foundation for the emergence of a new group of Chinese businessmen. It not only provided the main form of trade opportunity for Chinese "smugglers", but led to the creation of relationship between these businessmen and a number of indigenous powerholders. Before the war, political and economic forces were, broadly speaking, divided between the ethnic-majority (Indonesian) and ethnic-minority. Since the revolution, however, the two elements became; to a degree, compatible with each other. A crossethnic class formation appeared to be in the making.






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