Depoliticizing the Chinese issue: A reconsideration of the Suharto-era assimilation policy

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"Assimilation" has been long considered characteristic of Suharto's "New Order" policy toward the Indonesian Chinese. On the other hand, it is well known that sharp differentiation between pribumi and non-pribumi also existed within the civil administration. This seeming contradiction illustrates one of the difficulties in understanding the state's attitude towards Chinese in Indonesia during the Suharto era. This study examined the archives of the Department of Home Affairs, the department charged to carry out policies toward those of Chinese descent, in order to provide a clearer picture of how its laws and policies were conceived and formulated. It was found that the establishment of BAKOM-PKB and such programs as assimilation training in RT/RW were used to try to bureaucratically control and dominate this issue, especially under the Dirjen SOSPOL. This was an agency of extreme importance with an active role in policing not only the Chinese but also Communism, Islam, and those related to SARA issues. For the Department of Home Affairs, the Chinese issue was not just about National Unity but, more importantly, a measure to secure the Suharto presidency. Utilizing both assimilation and differentiation in that context was neither a failure nor a contradiction. It was a necessary combination in order to depoliticize the Chinese issue for the political stability of the regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-56
Number of pages20
JournalSoutheast Asian Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Political Science and International Relations


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