chapter  1
22 Pages

Introduction

The quote above reflects the recent experience of Chinese in Indonesia, but it could just as easily be an account of another minority community (Chinese or otherwise) facing persecution from a more numerically powerful indigenous group venting their anger on a community clearly marked as outsiders. This work aims to do two things. On a general level it is about ethnic politics: How do immigrant communities become incorporated into the larger polity? More specifically, this work is about one group of immigrants: the Chinese. In this regard the study looks crossnationally at how and why Chinese communities have accessed the political arena of their adopted countries. The Chinese diaspora is an interesting group to focus on for several reasons. Chinese communities can be found in places as diverse as Paris and Mauritius. Approximately 19.5 million ethnic Chinese live outside China, mostly in Southeast Asia and North America.1 Throughout the world they have organized a system of guilds, benevolent societies, tongs (secret societies), and name and place associations which facilitate the group ties that characterize the community and which have given rise to the phenomena of “network capitalism”2 which once fueled economic growth throughout Asia Pacific.