Being Chinese and Indonesian : Chinese organisations in post-Suharto Indonesia
In 1998 Indonesia was on the verge of huge political changes. The economy was in crisis and President Suharto's thirty-two year New Order government was coming to an end. Violence, largely directed against the ethnic Chinese in a number of cities on the archipelago, accompanied the political and economic crises. The changes which unfolded led to peaceful elections in 1999, which were judged by international observers to be fair and democratic. These elections placed a new administration in power and with it the hopes of the people that reformasi (reform) would ensue. Immediately after Suharto stepped down things began to change for the ethnic Chinese who had never been fully accepted as Indonesian within Indonesian national discourses. Indeed the presence of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia was constructed as a problem; the "Chinese problem" (inasalah Cina). During the New Order, policy towards Chinese Indonesians was particularly harsh. They were not permitted to celebrate any aspect of their Chinese heritage and official policy dictated that they should assimilate into Indonesian society. This changed after 1998 and the debate about how Chinese Indonesians should behave, and how they should be treated, emerged once again. This thesis investigates a number of Chinese Indonesian organisations which were established or re-established after May 1998. I am particularly interested in how they are articulating both their Chinese and their Indonesian identities in this new climate. I argue that as a result of Indonesian national discourses which construct Chinese Indonesians as "outsiders", it may not be possible for the groups to achieve their joint aims of overcoming anti-Chinese stereotypes and having their Chinese heritage accepted within Indonesia. During the New Order years many ethnic Chinese were reluctant to declare themselves Chinese publicly, or speak about their experiences, which has led to a dearth of empirical material relating to how Chinese Indonesians themselves understand their identities. Therefore, this research is a particularly useful addition to the study of the ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.