Changing Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese Since World War II

Changing Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese Since World War II

Jennifer W. Cushman
Wang Gungwu
Copyright Date: 1988
Pages: 354
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jc3fv
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  • Book Info
    Changing Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese Since World War II
    Book Description:

    In June 1985, a symposium, "Changing Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese since World War II" was held at the Australian National University in Canberra. This volume includes many of the papers from that symposium presented by ANU scholars and those from universities elsewhere in Australia, North America and Southeast Asia. Participants looked at the current thinking about the parameters of identity and shared their own research into the complex issues that overlapping categories of identity raise. Identity was chosen as the focus of the, symposium because perceptions of self - whether by others or by the individual Chinese concerned - appear to lie at the heart ' of the present-day Chinese experience in Southeast Asia, It is also evident that identity wears many guises and that we cannot talk about a single Chinese identity when identity can be determined by the different political, social, economic or religious circumstances an individual faces at any given time. One of the distinctive characteristics of all the essays in this volume is that they are written from an historical perspective. While the papers forcus on how recent developments in Southeast Asian society have shaped Chinese identity, they also discuss those changes in terms of the historical matrix from which they developed. Because many of the essays in this volume combine an historical overview with more recent statistical data, it should serve as a useful companion to the increasingly popular case studies in which much of the writing about the Chinese in Southeast Asia is now cast.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-058-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xii)
    J.W.C.
  4. THE STUDY OF CHINESE IDENTITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
    (pp. 1-22)
    Wang Gungwu

    Studies of the Chinese in Southeast Asia over the past decades have shown that the Chinese have changed and that they are capable of undergoing further change. There have been studies which point to people who are of Chinese descent but who no longer consider themselves Chinese. Others show descendants of Chinese who know little about what being Chinese means but who have re-discovered their Chineseness and have been trying to be re-sinicized. Yet other studies suggest that many Chinese have double identities. They identify with their country of adoption while remaining conscious of being Chinese. The studies suggest that...

  5. CHINESE IDENTITIES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA: ALTERNATIVE PERSPECTIVES
    (pp. 23-32)
    Charles Hirschman

    Wang Gungwu, as always, has presented a breathtaking panorama of new concepts, insights, empirical observations, and hypotheses for further elaboration and testing. In my brief comment, I attempt to examine critically his concepts and their application to the study of the Chinese in Southeast Asia. Then I sketch some alternative theoretical perspectives. My primary conclusion is that more attention to theory and to the study of plural societies in other contexts would offer promising directions for the study of Southeast Asian societies and the position of Chinese communities in the region.

    The concepts of Chinese identity and multiple identities are...

  6. LITERACY AND CULTURE
    • Introduction
      (pp. 33-34)

      Culture is the cornerstone of identity. This was particularly true for the Chinese who have revered a cultural heritage they regarded as superior to all others. It is a heritage which has moreover, unified disparate groups of Chinese both at home and abroad in the face of the divisions flowing from different dialects, places of origin and social levels. No single institution has been more effective in maintaining a sense of China’s cultural heritage than have Chinese schools; their curricula and medium of instruction ensured that Chinese cultural values were transmitted to successive generations of young Chinese.

      The medium of...

    • CHINESE EDUCATION AND IDENTITY IN SINGAPORE
      (pp. 35-60)
      Sally Borthwick

      This essay examines the evolution of Chinese-medium education in Singapore in the post-war decades and its changing input into the sense of identity of the Chinese-educated. Singapore affords a particularly interesting case-study in that the Chinese are not, as they are elsewhere in Southeast Asia, in a minority in the population. One may say, however, that Chinese-educated Chinese form a minority within the majority, retaining in some circles at least a distinct consciousness of community and identity. This consciousness may be compared with an equal confidence of ‘Chineseness’ among English-educated Chinese and with the overall Singaporean identity shared by those...

    • CHINESE INDEPENDENT SCHOOLS IN WEST MALAYSIA: VARYING RESPONSES TO CHANGING DEMANDS
      (pp. 61-74)
      Tan Liok Ee

      Chinese schools in their traditional forms had existed on the Malayan peninsula since the nineteenth century. But it was the political and social upheaval in China in the first two decades of the twentieth century that spurred a tremendous enthusiasm for and interest in education amongst the overseas Chinese communities. By 1938, there were 996 Chinese primary and 36 secondary schools on the peninsula, developed entirely from the financial resources of the Chinese community.¹

      When the war ended in 1945, these schools found themselves faced with a new set of problems as the colonial government set about defining a single...

    • CHINESE PUBLICATIONS AND THE TRANSFORMATION OF CHINESE CULTURE IN SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA
      (pp. 75-96)
      Sharon A. Carstens

      Chinese publications offer one of the most interesting, useful, and problematic sources for understanding changes and developments in Chinese culture in Malaysia and Singapore during the twentieth century. For anthropologists who value highly the ‘native point of view’, these materials vividly document changing ideas and attitudes among the Chinese-educated population, while also revealing the difficulties inherent in the maintenance and further development of a culture away from its homeland.

      Anyone who has done research utilizing Chinese publications in Malaysia and Singapore cannot fail to be impressed by the dramatic growth in the number of these materials in the 1950s and...

    • MULTILINGUALISM AND CHINESE IDENTITIES IN INDONESIA
      (pp. 97-106)
      Dédé Oetomo

      As an ethnic minority in multilingual and multidialectal Indonesia, one of the ways in which the Chinese signify, maintain and shift their different identities is through the use of different languages or language varieties (codes). This paper is an attempt to set up a typology of the interrelation of language and identity in the Chinese communities of Indonesia.¹ Given the paucity of accurate sociolinguistic studies of the different Chinese communities in Indonesia, it is hoped that the model presented in this paper will encourage such studies and, at least, provide a framework within which one can study the question of...

    • POST-WAR FICTION IN CHINESE AS A MIRROR OF POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL CHANGES IN SOUTHEAST ASIA
      (pp. 107-108)
      Claudine Salmon

      This paper explores various aspects of post-World War II literature written by Chinese in an effort to determine to what extent this literature reflects the concerns of Chinese in the region. Much of the literature surveyed was published in Malaysia and Singapore, but literature coming from other Southeast Asian countries as well as works written by returned overseas Chinese in Hong Kong and China are included.

      The paper first examines the kinds of stories which have been written about Southeast Asian Chinese and how each country’s literary productions in Chinese mirrored the shifting emphases of the Chinese community from the...

    • THE LION AND THE DRAGON: THE STATE, EDUCATION AND IDENTITY IN SINGAPORE
      (pp. 109-110)
      Christine Inglis

      The role of state institutions in the construction of Chinese identity is explored in this paper through an examination of the operation of educational policies in Singapore. Although the Chinese who constitute some 70 per cent of Singapore’s population are not a numerical minority, nor even necessarily a political minority, the governmental institutions have long been concerned with defining the boundaries of Chinese identity as evidenced by the requirement that citizens have a personal identity card which specifies their race. They have also been concerned with defining the characteristics of individuals who have ethnic identities such as ‘Chinese’ attributed to...

    • SOME THOUGHTS ON NATIONAL EDUCATION AND PERANAKAN CHINESE CULTURAL IDENTITY
      (pp. 111-112)
      Margaret Bocquet-Siek

      The paper basically argues that the Indonesian national education system, established since 1950, supplied a new frame of reference to those peranakan Chinese children who went to Indonesian language schools. By offering these children new cultural models those schools were instrumental in the creation of a new cultural identity among the post-war generation of peranakan Chinese. In many respects, this cultural identity was markedly different from that of their parents who had grown up in the colonial era, when the Dutch and Anglo-Chinese education systems had their greatest impact.

      Between 1950 and 1966 Chinese-language private schools offered an alternative education...

  7. POLITICS AND NATION BUILDING
    • Introduction
      (pp. 113-114)

      The degree of political commitment held by most Chinese towards their Southeast Asian homes is often underestimated by indigenous political elites in the region. Chinese have traditionally been regarded either as wedded to political parties in Taiwan and the PRC, or at best, as holding dual loyalties with the stronger loyalty reserved for China. In their drive to develop nationalism and a concrete sense of nationhood among their countrymen, Southeast Asian leaders have sought to instil patriotic values through the schools, through participation in a ‘national’ culture and through local political organizations themselves. They have also offered naturalization to aliens...

    • CITIZENSHIP AND IDENTITY: ETHNIC CHINESE AND THE INDONESIAN REVOLUTION
      (pp. 115-138)
      Mary F. Somers Heidhues

      During the implementation of the Dual Nationality Treaty between Indonesia and the People’s Republic of China, from 1960–62, over two-thirds of the ethnic Chinese who were eligible actively chose Indonesian citizenship. Since the late 1970s, additional measures have allowed the local-born, and some foreign-born, to acquire citizenship papers.

      In the mid-1960s, less than half of all ethnic Chinese in Indonesia were citizens. Less than twenty years later, at the time of the 1980 census, not more than 20 per cent of 4 million ethnic Chinese were aliens.¹ This change in national status began with Indonesia’s first citizenship law in...

    • NATION-BUILDING AND BEING CHINESE IN A SOUTHEAST ASIAN STATE: MALAYSIA
      (pp. 139-164)
      Tan Chee-Beng

      What is a Chinese in the context of Southeast Asia? This is not as easy to answer as it may appear to be. Indeed Chinese everywhere may bear the label ‘Chinese’ but the content of that label, that is, the nature of being Chinese, differs from country to country and even from one region to another. The people who bear the label ‘Chinese’ do share certain common cultural traditions, but the details of these traditions differ in one way or another, depending on where these Chinese live.

      There is no one common Chinese culture for Chinese everywhere. In fact, the...

    • CHINESE NEW VILLAGERS AND POLITICAL IDENTITY IN MALAYSIA
      (pp. 165-176)
      Loh Kok Wah

      New villages in the Kinta District, like the vast majority of them elsewhere in Malaysia, are essentially ethnically homogeneous communities.¹ Except for the few police officers and their families, invariably Malays, who live in a fenced-up portion at the entrance to the New Villages (NVs), more than 95 percent of the residents are Chinese. Clearly delineated and separated from Malays living in neighbouring kampungs and/or Indians living on labour lines in the estates (if any), the Chinese villager has few opportunities to be in touch with people from other ethnic groups if he does not venture out of his residential...

    • THE CHANGING IDENTITY OF THE PHILIPPINE CHINESE, 1946–1984
      (pp. 177-204)
      Antonio S. Tan

      World War II brought to an abrupt conclusion one period in the history of the Chinese in the Philippines and opened the door to another of a much different order. Before 1946 there was a general consensus about the identity of the Chinese in Southeast Asia or what constituted ‘Chineseness’. It was defined in terms of self-identification: ‘all who thought of themselves as Chinese were Chinese’. Whether as immigrant or local-born resident, the Chinese in the Philippines, in common with the Chinese elsewhere in Southeast Asia, were conscious of themselves as Chinese who had a homeland and who adhered to...

    • INDONESIAN CHINESE IDENTITY IN HONG KONG
      (pp. 205-206)
      Charles A. Coppel and Michael R. Godley

      Estimates vary but there are tens of thousands of Indonesian Chinese currently residing in Hong Kong. Most left the archipelago more than two decades ago in the mass repatriation of the 1960s. Although a few came directly to the colony or made their way through Singapore, more than 90 per cent first tried their luck in China. Once alienated by deteriorating conditions in Indonesia and often enthused with the idealistic promises of Mao’s revolution, they voted with their feet a second time when they became disenchanted with life in China and fled with other refugees to Hong Kong. Unlike the...

    • THE EMERGENCE OF SINGAPORE NATIONALISM
      (pp. 207-208)
      William E. Willmott

      Most theories of nationalism, whether Marxist or non-Marxist, describe it as an ideological phenomenon that had its origins in the emergence of the bourgeoisie in western Europe over the past three centuries. These theories ignore the crucial importance of collective sentiment in any analysis of nationalism and are therefore somewhat limited in their application to Asian nationalisms. Recognition of collective sentiment as the key aspect of nationalism allows us to conceive of modern Asian nationalisms as contemporary manifestations of national sentiments with long historical roots, for it frees us from the notion that nationalism was an aspect of the European...

    • CREATION OF A SINGAPOREAN IDENTITY AMONG THE CHINESE: THE PRE-PAP PHASE, 1945 – 1959
      (pp. 209-210)
      Yong Ching-Fatt

      This paper examines three major historical factors for the creation of a Singaporean identity as a post-WWII phenomenon among the Chinese generally and the hua-ch’iao particularly. First, British measures, both ‘repressive’ and ‘constructive’, against the hua-ch’iao community laid the groundwork for the creation of a local political consciousness among the hua-ch’iao. In their fight against the Malayan Communist Party and Communism and in the process of decolonization, the British took stern ‘repressive’ measures which included mass deportation of left-wing or Communist ‘suspects’ to China, the outlawing of the MCP (1948), the Guomindang (1949) and the China Democratic League (1949), and...

    • KAMPUCHEA’S ETHNIC CHINESE UNDER POL POT: A CASE OF SYSTEMATIC SOCIAL DISCRIMINATION
      (pp. 211-212)
      Ben Kiernan

      The most statistically valid survey of the death toll under Pol Pot indicates that half of Kampuchea’s 400,000 ethnic Chinese perished during 1975–79. This was apparently the greatest tragedy yet to befall any community of Southeast Asian Chinese. It represents a death toll proportionally twice as high as that among the suffering Khmer urban population in the same period. Was this a racial pogrom?

      Other ethnic minorities — particularly the Vietnamese and Chams — were targeted more ruthlessly by the Pol Pot regime, and compared to the Chinese, far more fell victim to execution. However Chinese were also targeted, in an...

    • CHANGES IN THE CHINESE COMMUNITIES OF HAIPHONG AND HANOI, 1945–1948: THE REPUDIATION OF THE FRENCH CONGREGATION SYSTEM
      (pp. 213-214)
      Esta S. Ungar

      By late 1948 pressure from the local Chinese communities in Vietnam and from the Nationalist Chinese representatives forced France to abolish the congregation system, the main instrument of French control over Chinese resident aliens in Vietnam.

      This pressure on the French was created with the merging of two key influences: one, the rising tide of political consciousness among Chinese communities in Vietnam from the early 1930s onward, and two, French fears lest Chinese in Vietnam swing political support behind the Communist-led Viet Minh Front which had been locked in a struggle with French forces in Indochina since December 1946.

      This...

  8. ECONOMIC ACTIVITY
    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 215-216)

      Chinese success in business has often been explained in ethnic terms. Chinese reliance on trustworthy kin as managers, on the networks of business associates for credit and market information, and the expectation that people from one’s home base will offer a helping hand, are all seen to be important in the ability of Chinese to capture economic advantages over the indigenous populations in the countries where they have settled. The economic modernization of Southeast Asia since World War II has been achieved through a mixture of European-owned companies and the ‘corporatization of big business’ — the latter largely dominated by Chinese....

    • Introduction Changing Economic Roles and Ethnic Identities of the Southeast Asian Chinese: A Comparison of Indonesia and Thailand
      (pp. 217-260)
      J.A.C. Mackie

      In nearly all countries of Southeast Asia, the economic roles of the overseas Chinese minorities have been changing along broadly similar lines since the latter part of the 19th century.¹ In Indonesia, for example, their advance from predominantly low-status occupations as immigrant laborers or petty traders early in the 20th century towards more desirable positions higher up the economic ladder by the 1970s — and in many cases to the top-most rungs of it — has been similar in most respects to the progress of other Chinese groups or individuals in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and the Philippines. In all these countries ethnic...

    • CHINESE ECONOMIC ELITES IN INDONESIA: A PRELIMINARY STUDY
      (pp. 261-288)
      Leo Suryadinata

      The Chinese in Indonesia, who comprise 2.8% (roughly five million) of the Indonesian population, have been long regarded an economically strong group. They are particularly dominant in trade and to a lesser extent, in finance and industry. Within the larger Chinese community, there is a small group which wields great economic power.

      Who are the members of the Chinese economic elite? Most contemporary Indonesian scholars readily identify the so-called cukongs as Chinese economic elites. These rich Chinese, who emerged only after the rise of the ‘New Order’, collaborate with the indigenous power elite. Many have developed their businesses into multinational...

    • ETHNIC IDENTITIES AND ASPECTS OF CLASS IN CONTEMPORARY CENTRAL THAILAND
      (pp. 289-290)
      Christina Blanc Szanton

      This paper, commissioned for the Symposium, analyzes the economic transformations of late 20th-century Central Thailand, including socioeconomic stratification and class formation, in terms of their relationships to ethnicity and ethnic relations. It emphasizes the importance of viewing ethnicity not primiarly as a constant ascribed trait inherited from the past but rather as the result of a dynamic process which continues to unfold, constantly being reformulated by all the agents involved. Important elements in that process, as demonstrated by current research in the Third and Western worlds, are the roles of the nation-state administration of power, symbolic or otherwise, the existing...

    • KINSHIP AND FRIENDSHIP: ECONOMIC TIES AMONG THE CHINESE BUSINESS ELITES OF PENANG AND PENINSULAR SIAM
      (pp. 291-292)
      Jennifer Cushman

      This paper seeks to assess whether the large-scale Chinese business formations which are receiving increased scholarly attention are departures from that has been regarded as the traditional model, viz., the small-scale, family-owned business, or whether past Chinese business formations held the seeds for these later developments. By surveying how the Khaw family, who gained political and economic power in the west-coast states of the Thai peninsula and in Penang from the 1840s, chose their business associates and built up their economic empire we find that non particularistic ties were a major factor in their business strategy. The firms they founded...

    • THE STRUCTURE OF BANKING CAPITAL IN THAILAND
      (pp. 293-294)
      Kevin Hewison

      The paper examines the structure of the most powerful faction of the capitalist class in modern Thailand — banking capital.

      The development of banking is outlined and the powerful economic position of the owners of banks and finance companies is discussed. From their base in banking, it is demonstrated that the banking families have expanded their investments into all sectors of the economy.

      While these banking capitalists are shown to be overwhelmingly of Chinese ancestry, it is suggested that an analysis of their power should be based on their class positions rather than concentrating on their ethnic origins....

    • FAMILY BUSINESSES IN INDONESIA
      (pp. 295-296)
      J. Panglaykim

      With the development of the national economy and credit standing of Indonesia, new opportunities have been made available to the national business sector. This sector comprises economically strong and economically weak groups. In a step towards fostering national unity the government has recognized family businesses which have been successful in establishing themselves in the national private sector, as national assets. It was during the period from 1969 through 1973 that many WNIs (Indonesian abbreviation for Indonesian citizens of Chinese origin) of the Indonesian national private sector had been given new opportunities to develop their business, of which they have taken...

    • THE EVOLUTION OF MALAYSIAN CHINESE CAPITAL IN THE POST-COLONIAL PERIOD
      (pp. 297-298)
      Lee Poh Ping

      Malaysian Chinese capital during the colonial period had been basically mercantile in nature. It played a subordinate role to British agency houses as intermediaries in the exchange of the then Malayan raw materials with British manufactured products. Small-scale manufacturing and retail banking essentially constituted what industrial and financial activities this capital undertook.

      This capital today is still greatly mercantile, and some of its activities are quite big in scope. It has nevertheless to accommodate itself to increasing state involvement in those activities with which it had traditionally been involved — for example, in trade involving tin, rubber, rice, and trade with...

    • CLASS CONSCIOUSNESS, ETHNICITY AND CLASS DIFFERENCES AMONG MALAYSIAN CHINESE IN THE POST-WAR PERIOD
      (pp. 299-300)
      Donald M. Nonini

      Adherents of the new received wisdom that class conflict and class consciousness among Chinese Malaysians are absent have assumed an overly simple, acultural conception of ‘class’, where they have allowed ‘class’ to have any analytical value at all. This paper sketches out the difficulties with this position and presents an alternative perspective. First, this position fails to address the complexities of awareness of inequality and subordination among poorer Chinese Malaysians, and of the distinction between lived experience and its articulation, on the one hand, and ideological representations, on the other. An alternative perspective would point to the existence of a...

  9. ASSOCIATIONS
    • Introduction
      (pp. 301-302)

      Associations have played a fundamental role in maintaining a sense of identity for Chinese who have emigrated to foreign countries. Some scholars have argued that historically associations have been a negative force in the accommodation of Chinese to their homes overseas, serving to keep them isolated from their new compatriots. In other situations, however, they have eased the way for the immigrant, providing a sense of belonging, helping with the everyday problems of resettlement and generally allowing the new-comer time to adjust to an unfamiliar setting.

      Dialect associations, branches of homeland political parties and clan or surname associations have in...

    • Introduction Chinese Organizations and Ethnicity in Southeast Asia and North America since 1945: A Comparative Analysis
      (pp. 303-318)
      Edgar Wickberg

      Overseas Chinese organizations have often been seen as a force retarding assimilation.¹ Whatever their intentions, the very presence of such bodies provides continued support and encouragement to Chinese cultural life abroad. One would therefore expect an analysis of overseas Chinese organizational trends to tell us something about trends in Chinese ethnicity in the communities where they are found. It is unlikely that anyone would argue that the more associations an overseas Chinese community has the more ‘Chinese’ it must be. Still, a growth in numbers of associations may give us some idea of what is not going on (e.g., complete...

    • CHINESE ORGANIZATIONS AND ETHNIC IDENTITY IN THE PHILIPPINES
      (pp. 319-334)
      Chinben See

      Chinese organizations are formed by immigrants to fulfil different social functions as well as to cope with problems posed by their new environment. The emergence of various types of Chinese organizations in the Philippines and the proliferation of these associations in the post-war years to form a national network clearly reflect the needs and crises the immigrants encountered at different stages of the development of the Philippine Chinese community. The interlocking organizations seemingly fit what Crissman called a ‘Segmentary structure’ but Wickberg was right to argue that the development of different types of Chinese organizations depends more on other factors...

    • INDONESIAN CHINESE IN TORONTO, CANADA
      (pp. 335-336)
      Judith Nagata

      Immigrant Chinese in Canada display some of the same patterns of adaptation as did their cousins earlier in Southeast Asia, in their openness to new religious practices and adoption of new occupational and linguistic skills. To Canada, however, the Southeast Asian Chinese bring a double heritage, while they simultaneously become members of an avowedly multicultural society, whose institutions, including religious, claim to be universalistic, providing opportunities for social interaction across ethnic lines.

      In Canada, of the 6–7 thousand Chinese of Indonesian and Malaysian birth, well over 60 per cent have affiliated to various branches of Christianity, from Roman Catholicism...

    • RELIGIOUS ADAPTATION: THE MOSLEM CHINESE IN INDONESIA. A PRELIMINARY VIEW
      (pp. 337-338)
      The Siauw Giap

      There are indications that the number of Chinese conversions to Islam in Indonesia is again on the increase. Estimates of the number of Moslem Chinese in 1983 vary from about 20,000 (0.5 per cent of the Chinese population) to 400,000 (some 10 per cent); the correct number would likely be between these two figures. The conversions have assumed sufficient proportions so as to attract the attention of a number of students of the State Institute of Islamic Religion (Institute Agama Islam Negara – IAIN) in Yogyakarta, to devote their Masters theses to the subject. Keun Won-Jang, a Moslem Korean student at...

    • THE CHINESE IN AUSTRALIA
      (pp. 339-340)
      Lawrence W. Crissman

      This paper begins by noting an estimate of 150,000 (or 1 per cent of the total population) for the number of Chinese in Australia in 1985, but makes the point that the aggregate number is not very salient because of the great diversity in the backgrounds of the ‘Chinese’ in the country. The various categories of people who in one way or another identify (or are identified as Chinese) are briefly discussed in the historical context of their arrival. The Chinese survivors of the White Australian Policy numbered only 12,094 in 1947, of whom 6,678 were Australia born (only 3,778...

  10. LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 341-344)