Indonesia har slått inn på en mykere vei: kineserne er nå akseptert på en helt annen måte enn før. Det er bare åtte år siden fryktlige pogromer fant sted. Toleransen omfatter ikke bare kinesere: det er selve definisjonen av hvem som er indoneser som er endret.
After centuries of segregation, periodic violence and tension over their higher levels of wealth, Indonesia’s Chinese community, which makes up 1 to 2 percent of the population of 245 million, is now enjoying what many are calling a golden era.
«The situation of the Chinese has never been as good as today,» said Benny Setiono, head of the Chinese Indonesian Association, a nonprofit group that represents the community. «We feel more free, more equal.»
As someone whose forebears arrived here from China something like eight generations ago Setiono speaks with authority when he says the Chinese community is more secure than it has ever been, just eight years after anti-Chinese riots, part of the unraveling of Suharto’s authoritarian rule, left scores of Chinese dead and many shops burned.
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One of the main reasons for the optimism is a fundamental change in Indonesian law: The country has redefined what it means to be a «native.»
A citizenship law passed this year proclaims that an indigenous Indonesian is someone who was born here to Indonesian citizens, a radical departure for a society that separated the Chinese in one way or another through colonial times and more recently during Suharto’s 33-year reign that ended just after the riots in 1998.
Other laws have erased the preferential treatment for «pribumi,» or indigenous groups, in bank lending and the awarding of government contracts, a policy that still exists in Malaysia, where racial tensions are creeping higher.
In the eight years since Suharto stepped down, Indonesia has dropped the draconian rules that banned expressions of Chinese culture and adopted Chinese New Year as a national holiday.
The horrors of the anti-Chinese violence in 1998 were the prime impetus for the legal overhaul. But Indonesians also realized that espousing the concept of a «native» could be explosive for everyone, not just the Chinese.
«The question of who was here first became very dangerous,» said Andreas Harsono, a journalist who is researching a book on nationalism here. «The logic has been manipulated by many politicians.»
The so-called transmigration policies of Suharto dispersed hundreds of thousands of families, mainly Javanese, across the archipelago, creating conflicts with other ethnic groups.
Today, instead of using the word «pribumi,» some politicians claim they are «putra daerah,» or local sons, and contrast that with «pendatang,» or newcomers. A country that sometimes seems to have as many ethnic groups and dialects as inhabited islands (about 6,000) will probably never be clear of racial rivalries, but tensions are nowhere near the levels of a few years ago.
Hvordan et stort land som Indonesia løser sine nasjonalitetsproblemer har stor betydning for utviklingen. I Malaysia går utviklingen motsatt vei: der er spenningen mellom malayere og kinesere sterkere enn på lenge. De innfødte malayere føler seg truet av kineserne og gir seg selv fordeler.
A golden age for Indonesian Chinese