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The Question of Diaspora in International Relations

<A case study of Chinese diaspora in Malaysia and South-East Asia>

Sek Pei LIM

Dissertation, MA In International Relations,

University of Sussex

Part 3: Chapter 3

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Chapter 1 * Chapter 2 * Chapter 4(a) * Chapter 4 (b) * Chapter 5  * References

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Chinese diaspora in Malaysia and Southeast Asia

 

1.1      Introduction

¡§Wherever the ocean waves touch, there are overseas Chinese¡¨[1]

 

As a result of migration, often to geographically distant lands, today¡¦s Chinese people are widely distributed outside China and live in almost every country of the world. In  1990 almost 37 million Overseas Chinese live in 136 countries[2], ¡§Overseas Chinese¡¨ being defined here as persons of Chinese ancestry living outside the People¡¦s Republic of China and Taiwan. There are no precise figures, since the boundaries of Chineseness shift with circumstances and self identification, and ethnic origin is often unrecorded, but the total number of ethnic Chinese outside the mainland including Taiwan, is probably somewhat over 50 million: 21 million in Taiwan, 6.5 million in Hong Kong, 20 million in the ASEAN countries, and the remainder elsewhere around the globe.

 

The profound historical significance and ramification of the migration is in its linkage with refugees and those in search of economic opportunity.[3] The weakness of the late Dynasty Qing had been a main period of migration; most of the migrants had mortgaged their property and sought to go abroad to search for fortune when the political instability and poverty circumstances were becoming worst. The modernization movements in China had forced them into political dilemma, even though most of them were unwilling to be involved and/or to challenge the fate of both the local and homeland government[4]. It is interesting to evaluate why they were forced to support either KMT or CCP while abroad, from the view of IR theoretical fundamentals.

 

To know the history is to know about the evolution of the world. Pieterse[2000:386] emphasized: ¡§That globalisation is a long-term historical process is not the common assessment of globalization among economists, political scientists or sociologists, but it is among some historians and anthropologists.¡¨ To explore the question of diaspora, which I am analysing within the context of international relations, it is importance to look back at the anthropology constitution in the Southeast Asia region, one that is of a multiracial, multi-belief society. Comparisons can be made based on the period when their ascendants came, and the place which they formed their settlements to examine what exactly discriminate them under this stratum.  Did they play any roles in internal and external relations respectively within both their host and homeland? If they do, how and what are the implications it brings to the inter-state relations, host-homeland and each other in the diasporic network?

 

This chapter will therefore start with a historical introduction and walkthrough of Chinese diaspora, in particular Chinese diaspora in Malaysian and neighbouring Southeast Asia.  I will then follow on with a narrower focus on Malaysia¡¦s Chinese diaspora and how it interacts with its diasporic homeland and other diasporic communities. In order to obtain up-to-date general feelings of the Chinese communities in Malaysia, I had embarked on a survey to gauge the opinion of the younger population group in Malaysia, the results which are presented in the Appendix.  Finally, I will investigate the implication of Chinese diaspora in IR and search for possible questions that might arises from that. These will form the remaining of my chapter.

 

1.2      The historical context ¡V Mainland China and Southeast Asia

 

Since the early centuries, the Mainland China, called ¡§Zhong Guo¡¨ in Chinese, translated as the ¡§Middle Kingdom¡¨ or ¡§Centre of the World¡¨, regarded itself as superior to all others. In those days, for many centuries, China has not merely expanded their empire to the Middle East countries, but also exported their political, economical and cultural influences to Southeast Asia. Throughout history, China has had been a hegemonic power in Asia, who features dominantly in the commercial and political connection with those countries[5]. Based on China¡¦s location (being the ¡¥Centre of the world¡¦), Southeast Asia situated to the south has been called ¡§Nanyang¡¨, translated as the ¡§Southern Ocean¡¨, which embraces the South China Sea and the costal strips of mainland in Southeast Asia and the islands of the Indonesia and Philippines.[6]

 

Wang [1992] has described how the Chinese merchants were arriving at the coast of South China at least three centuries before the Christian era, and were rapidly established official relations with the trading centres of the day. Following that, Buddhist pilgrims had came to Southeast Asia while travelling by sea route to India, stopping and learning at Empire of Srivijaya, Indonesia. The Chinese took similar routes to the Southeast Asia, some took regular voyages to the region as a part of the sea trading networks, and others established settlements in the commercial centres there.

 

The national crisis1911 Revolution had raised the patriotic feeling in those who were concerned for their kith and kin, most of them looked to the home government as their source of prestige, honour and status. The overseas Chinese leaders lend support to the two Chinese modernization movements in terms of financial assistance, manpower, and the provision of sanctuary for revolutionary refugees. The revolutions¡¦ leaders in China had been trying to accumulate and campaigned for the support and participation from all the Chinese abroad.  The Chinese government later divided into two separate group of different mainstream ideology, CCP and KMT. Both tried to mobilize the Chinese overseas by hailing them as fellow compatriot living abroad.

 

In that post war era, the two hegemonic giant, Russia representing socialism and United States the champion of democratic system have obviously been the dominating force in the dictation of politico-economy agenda in IR. The realist motivation of the forces to balance and expand their own power has not only ignited the Korean War and Vietnam War, but also in no uncertain way related to the performance of government in the Southeast Asia region[7].  Moreover, in the Chinese revolution, the struggle between CCP and KMT had been raging, and flamed further the political instability in the region. The founding governments back then were feeling unease with the state of the societies that had separated into groups promoting the two main ideologies, especially within the Chinese communities.

 

By mid-1950s, the Chinese Problem had been a cause for serious concerns in Southeast Asia even though Chinese diasporas have played equally significance roles toward the road of independence in some of the states.  Authorities were particularly worried due to the affluent state of the Chinese community with huge economic influence and therefore significant wealth to affect the direction of the society. Not to mention the fact that some of this people were influenced previously by the anti-Japanese movements during the war that were affiliated to the communist movement. A significant communist penetration into local organisations might provoke a take-over revolution and threaten the virgin government. The communist underground activities had threatened the politico-economy development in Malaya and Indonesia. ASEAN had been founded to balance power and to maintain regional security among Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines and Singapore in 1967.  The complication faced by the ASEAN countries in dealing with the issues related to the Chinese problem, how they deal with it among themselves and still maintain diplomatic communication with China are noteworthy elements to be a contribution to the contemporary question of Chinese diaspora.

 

1.3      Chinese Diasporas in Malaysia and South East Asia - A Historical Analysis

 

 

Today, the worldwide ethnic Chinese diaspora transnational network is one of the most extensive in existence in IPE. Wherever they live, they were forming linkages in the Chinese communities, and would normally establishes ¡§Chinatown¡¨ to advocate the features and traditional cultures of ethnic China. Most of the Chinese communities emigrated from China in the end of the eighteen-century particularly in the Southeast Asia region. Here, some of them and their later generations had undergone severe form of discriminations or assimilation and it was difficult to clarify their identity to be ethnic Chinese. Not withstanding this fact, they too were offspring of the Chinese and cannot be left out as a part, albeit a tiny one, of the diasporic culture.

 

Prime Minister of Malaysia Mahathir [1999:33] pointed out that: ¡§The overseas Chinese in Malaysia and other Asian countries, working as merchants or petty shop-owners, have always had an almost natural flair for business and an urge to acquire a higher level of material wealth.¡¨  Thus, as a consequent of this, for most country where Chinese were presents, including significantly Malaysia, it became essential for the government to aim for equitable distribution of wealth to avoid racial resentment like the tragic racial riot of Malaysia which had happened in May 13, 1969.  The root cause of this is economic disparity and unequal economic development of the different ethnic groups. These types of systematic discrimination however were to become the thorn in the diasporic communities everywhere.

 

Wang [1992:287-300] has observed ubiquitous Chinese minorities on five continents and pointed that nowhere else but in Southeast Asia are relations between the indigenous people and the ethnic Chinese so delicate or so prone to violent outbreaks. He considered this to be due to the simple facts of racial difference and socio-cultural separateness that were commonly explored as resentment by the non-Chinese; creating the feeling of ¡§have-nots¡¨ and hammering in the awareness about the Chinese ¡§haves¡¨.

 

Morgenthau political morality have contributed to the political thinking and had been approached by the Southeast Asia governments, when awareness of Chinese communities dominant hold in the domestic economy and their taking of a larger part of the states wealth developed. Despite conceding to them some fundamental nationality rights, ruthless strategies have been used to limit their economic resources or power through proper implementation of various policies. Chinese communities have undergoing not only adverse-preferential treatment in the economic sector, but also restriction in keeping on with their cultural identity. They suffered barriers and prohibitions that limit their ability to continuously sustained their identity as ethnic Chinese, under the name of assimilations and integrations. Educations too become a constantly fought battle line.

 

1.3.1      The intricate relations between Malaysia¡¦s pluralism society and China

 

In regard to the social features, the major racial cleavages into Malay, Chinese, and Indian coincide largely with cleavages in religion, language and way of life, thus making consensus especially difficult. The cleavages in Malaya were probably as deep as those in almost any other country, a complicating factor being that the two main groups, Malays and Chinese, were comparable in size. The cleavages were also apparent, perhaps especially apparent, among the rebels during the Emergency, in spite of the claim that the rebellion had a national character. To make things worse the cleavages were intensified by external pressures and attractions, particularly on some Chinese from Mainland China and Taiwan and on some Malays from Indonesia. It could be claimed that in Malaya there were far more Chinese nationalism, Indonesian nationalism and Indian nationalism than there was Malayan nationalism.

 

During the post war period, most Malaysian Chinese had pledged their loyalty to the sojourner country, even though the majority of the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) members were ethnic Chinese. CPM was formed to fight against Japanese occupations. Later it evolved into an organisation to guard the colonial power influence in Southeast Asia. It was also penetrated by the China socialist political ideology. Victor Purcell [1965:190-198] pointed out that the Chinese in Malaya were trying to come to terms with their environment and to identify themselves with the countries in which they live, but the cultural pulls of China were the greatest obstacle to the achievement of this aim. Communism is one thing and Chinese nationalism another.

 

In the law of jungle, it is more secure and functional to be an ally to the giant rather than an adversary. Malaysian government exchanged diplomatic recognition with the People¡¦s Republic of China (PRC) in May 1974, and was forced to end the official diplomatic relation with Republic of China (ROC) in Taiwan. However Malaysian government were facing guerrilla threat from Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and had restricted and prohibited Malaysian from going to China. Thus, most Malaysian Chinese students who were graduates from the Chinese Independence High School had to pursue their further study in Taiwan¡¦s university. Only by 1989 when CPM had officially been declared as collapsed did Malaysian government lifted the severely strict rules to those who intend to visit Mainland China.

 

1.4      China and overseas Chinese

 

It is valuable to look back at the official term used by the Chinese government to identity Chinese abroad. When the CCP became the central power of the China, it emphasized that, ¡§the essence of Overseas Chinese work is domestic overseas Chinese affair work.[8]¡¨ And it sought to use the Overseas Chinese as a means of communicating with, and influencing the Chinese abroad in the mid-1950s. Fitzgerald [1970] said that CCP¡¦s motives remained vague while dealing in the Overseas Chinese policy that has always been responding to changes in domestic policy. In addition to taking the responsibility for all the ethnic Chinese abroad, even they cannot realistically nurture the notion that they will have any direct influence or jurisdiction over the ¡§Chinese resident abroad.¡¨  Therefore, CPP¡¦s foreign policy was essentially related to Overseas Chinese Policy whilst facing the challenges from the KMT, which was also trying to mobilize overseas Chinese against the communist government.

 

Wang [1991] has identified and categorised Chinese migrants who were living and working abroad using a historical perspective into four main patterns since the1800s. Firstly, the term Chinese trader (Hua Shang) refers to the merchant and artisans who expanded their fortune abroad and might have settled down before 1850 in Japan, Philippines, Java, and Thailand; secondly, the term Chinese coolie (Hua Gong) refer to the coolie labour from the peasant class who rushed to North America and Australia to pursue their golden fortune in the beginning of the industrialization after 1850, afterwards in Southeast Asia; thirdly, Chinese sojourner (Hua Qiao) used under the political, legal or ideological context soon become generally used to apply to all those previously known as Chinese trader and Chinese coolie in the end of the nineteen century; and fourth Chinese descent or re-migrant (Hua Yi), a term liberalized to the foreign nationals of Chinese descent  who are born abroad in twentieth  century. This also includes some who were born in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong but have acquired foreign citizenship. Other terms used to clarify Chinese includes Chinese person (Hua Ren), Chinese citizen (Hua Min), Hua Meng (Chinese descendant) and those who were the first generation sojourner abroad traditionally called themselves as the Tang Ren (People of the Tang dynasty).  These four patterns principles implied that wherever they were, they were part of Chinese nation[9].

 

The government policy for the Chinese abroad can be briefly traced as in the diagram below, which I compiled from Wang [1991 & 1992] and other articles. It can be seen in the diagram how the Chinese government changes the way it term the overseas Chinese in relations to its policy at that time.

 

 

Figure 1 The codifications of the Chinese abroad

From fourteenth to eighteenth century, most of the Chinese sojourner living abroad were under China official arrangement (including those who were unwilling to move away), as in the case for Fukian Taiwanese under Cheng Cheng Kung, leading to their permanent migrations and settling down in Taiwan. Thus, they were under the assumption that they were sojourner living abroad because they were not criminals banished away; nor did they migrated without China official permission.

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During the late of 18th century and the beginning of 19th century, new events and factors lead to a new change of term for all the Chinese overseas.  Among others was the move by the British 1844 who declared that all the Straits settlements, which has mostly Chinese populations, were under their protections[10].  Also, following a series of signed treaties with the western Imperial force and Japan, China had lost a substantial power and control, and can no longer officially protect the Chinese abroad. The European power had arranged a lot of the Chinese (coolie trade) to be transported to their colonial countries to fuel the rapid industrializations[11].  The new term declared, ¡§Overseas Chinese¡¨, had the purpose of instilling in those Chinese a sense of obligations and accountability that they have to China. It was hoped that this would restore their ¡§Chineseness¡¨ and their sense of patriotism to defend against the foreign power that sought to topple China. This is also a term used to claim overseas Chinese as theirs, without regards for the principle of jus sanguinis. Naturally this term also caused uneasiness among the later nations, causing doubt on the loyalty of the ethnic Chinese populations of their country.

 

The beginning of twenty-first century sees the increased usage of the term diaspora, predominantly by the academic community. Is this the right term forward, one to replace ¡¥Overseas Chinese¡¦?  Or should they simply be known as ¡¥Hua Ren¡¦ or Chinese People? This will be answered as time progress, but as what I would explain later, the usage of the term Chinese diaspora has many implications. First however, we shall look at the online survey (Appendix A), which help us to understand further the sentiments of current generation Malaysian Chinese. The conclusion of the survey follows.

 

Most of the populations under survey are professional younger generations of the country.  They were born in Malaysia and all have received exposure since their childhood from the local elements and conditioning, and build up their love and loyalty for the country. The results from question two, four, five and ten in particular showed that many of them are loyal to Malaysia and do not have a great deal of affinity for either China or Taiwan. They consider Malaysia be their country and homeland, and they are Malaysian with Chinese culture.  In general most believe that Chinese have important roles to play in the international scene, both economic and political. However, they showed that they still maintain cultural link in particular, and kinship feelings with other Chinese else where in the world. Most respondents however were not particularly concern with the happenings in either Taiwan or China.  All these results are reflective of the vibes of the younger Chinese generation who had broke off their ties with their ancestral home.

 

1.5      The Implication of Chinese diaspora in IR

 

¡§Success and cultural flowering by an ethnic minority especially one with global connections, always risks arousing hostility. When seemingly legitimated by nationalism, and fuelled by inequality, such hostility can be a powerful destructive force¡K¡¨[12]

 

The sentence sum up the myriad of issues that was faced by the Chinese diaspora.  In IR, these issues raised a number of questions that would affect the analysis of a diaspora related event. Here, I will summarise some of the question surrounding the diasporic concerns of International Relations.

1.5.1      The question of identity

 

Identity is an attribute important to humankind due to its uniqueness. We describe a person by its face, name character or background but the best clarification of any individual being will have to depends on how they identity themselves.  Such is the case with the diasporic population. Their identities become a game of what they were perceived as and they perceive themselves to be. In the domestic and world politics, these become an all important issue. Do the diaspora of certain nationality consider themselves to be such? And does their state consider them so?

 

According to Wang [1991], the Chinese have not had a grasp for the concept of identity, for them it is just having Chineseness, of being Chinese and of becoming un-Chinese. It was the work of later social scientists that increases the use of identity.  He believes that there were at least two ways that the Chinese saw their Chineseness, the Chinese Nationalist identity and the historical identity. Before the 2nd world war, the question of identity was a simple one, all who thought of themselves as Chinese were Chinese who were conscious of their family system, their place of origin in China and their link with other Chinese in China and other part of the region.  This is the historical identity.  This identity was found acceptable to Southeast Asia countries because it is largely backward looking and not assertive. 

 

Later however, new nationalist from China built upon the idea of min-tze (race and nation) and stress the idea that the Chinese racial origins should lead them to identify with the nationalism in China. This became the Chinese nationalist identity which becomes stronger and stronger due to Chinese propaganda mechanism and educational policy. This new nationalist identity is one that most of the new indigenous political leaders found alarming.  Although in most of the Southeast Asian countries, due to the small number of Chinese, the nationalist identity posed no threat, in place like Malaya where Chinese were nearly half the population, this become an important issue. The strong local Chinese community was on the whole willing to abandon Chinese nationalist identity and replace it with the new Malayan identity, but had at the same time developed a powerful sense of communal identity to assert the community¡¦s right to share power in the country. This created tensions in the state and lead to other problems both domestically and in the wider international context.

 

The question of identity in Chinese diaspora is an important one because it affects the political status of the Chinese and the way nation state deals with them.  In international relations, these translate to difficulties in demarcating the borderline of states and raised questions regarding the practice of defining state as a unitary actor.  And also, they bring forth the paradox of nationality and loyalty.

1.5.1.1  Paradox of nationality

 

Wang [1970] identified and broke down the attitude of the overseas Chinese during the early post-war period into three categories; Community A who were concerned with politics and foreign policies in China; community B who were concerned with their community politics; community C who were committed to some sort of Malaya loyalty, participated in their sojourner climb for power along with the dominants, regardless whether dominant political actors were the indigenous, colonial, or nationalist. For all the above, regardless of whether they participated or supported revolution in china, going home to China was not an alternative.

 

They acquired their citizenship either by birth (ius soli) or by naturalisation (ius sanguinis)[13]. In the political world, ¡§nationality is a legal and political tie, which binds individuals to a state and renders them subject to its personal jurisdiction.¡¨[14]

 

The paradox of nationality exist because the Chinese diaspora who had settled all their life in the country of sojourn, and has neither the possibility nor the inclination to return to their homeland were not treated as the proper citizens of the host country. They are neither nationalities of the home country, nor proper member of the host country. They became part of transnational communities and yet geographically they are not dissimilar from the so-called natives of the region.

 

The question whether an individual is given the nationality for a given state is determined in accordance with the law of the state under various discrimination policies to restrict their right as a nationality. The diaspora always felt doubtful of their citizens¡¦ right and privileges, even though they might abide by the constitution and law, respect all the social rules, pay taxes and served any responsibility of the civil duties. But they cannot obtained full nationality right because they are of transnational communities and officially, the power to be thinks that they will stand with the side of their descendant homeland in time of conflicts. Also, the fact that the homeland, China/Taiwan still do take interest in their action and welfare is not contributing to their paradox of Nationality. Where else but in diasporic situation, can you find a case where one country taking immense interests in another country¡¦s citizens?

 

In this paradox of nationality, the Chinese diaspora become the victim. Their transnational status means that they were mostly deprived of their full citizen rights in their host land and new home, yet their assimilations with the local cultures also means that there were to get further apart from their traditional values. From and international relations point of view, the problem become one of determining the correct categorisation of a state, whether a unitary independent status assumption can be a valid one. That will be further discussed later. But this also leads to the paradox of loyalty, which come next.

 

1.5.1.2  Paradox of loyalty

 

Contemporary transnationalization that comprises of elements of economic or political migrations has become increasingly complicated. In IR, international law has constrained the displacement of the peoples among states, but most countries will still open their door to people who brought investments or who were professional as their migrations can contribute to the economic status of the country.[15] This creates a struggle for the political actors, between capitalists and realists as it brings contradiction in the form of economic prospecst versus security issues of the states. Even for a leader of state, the questions of nationality were be considered to be the potentially most harmful, for example Thailand Prime minister Banharn Silpa-archa (an ethnic Chinese) was accused of falsifying his birth records to make him appears as Thai national whereas he was actually born in China[16].

 

The question of loyalty exists when there are no trusts.  At the beginning of the post-colonial eras in Malaysia and Indonesia, due to their affiliations with china, most Chinese were regarded with suspicion and as the Fifth Columnist of China or Taiwan. In Indonesia, after an abortive coup attempt blamed on Indonesian Communist Party against Sukarno¡¦s government in 1965, many Chinese were massacred during a free-for-all bloodbath[17]. In Malaysia, the question of loyalty leads to frozen relationship with China where the local Chinese were restricted access to China because they cannot be trusted enough not to be recruited by China to be subversive agent of communist. In the early years, this issue also became the excuse to deny citizenship to many Chinese.

 

Wang [1991] identified five points which caused revival in China¡¦s interest on Overseas Chinese in the end of the 20th century, among them is ¡§¡Kto instil in all the overseas Chinese who has taken up other nationality, the sense of ethnicity and to respond warmly and encourage such sentiments¡¨. It is such interest that would be alarmed the local indigenous leader. However, it should be recognised that ¡§diaspora communities are not necessarily anti-nationalist, indeed they may yearn for or actively support nationalist claims to a homeland somewhere else¡¨ might be reflecting most of the diasporic psychology[18].

1.5.2      The question security

 

History itself has provided sufficient empirical data to suggest that a correlation exist between the question of national identity and the success or failure of democratisation. When a state disintegrates, democratisation is hard to consolidate, and so is the task to maintain the balance of power politically or economically. Malaysia is not excluded from this; the ethnic cleavages and conflict have provided an excuse for the imposition of increasingly authoritarian measures to prevent secessionist movements effectively. Ethnic relations cannot be discussed and officially deemed ¡§sensitive issues¡¨, restricted under Internal Security Act (ISA) in Malaysia.

 

When the conflict is reinforced by religious divisions, it forms the ground for separatist movements.  Ethnicity feed authoritarian nationalism and weakens the state. Political security become unstable and it will be easy to pinpoint the lack of it to regular ethnic cleavages and confrontation between states in international world politics. The minorities communities which although have dominated most of the economic interest of state but without any military might or policies influences will still bring to the insecurity of the state actor who perceived the existent of this communities as a competitor to their livelihood.

1.5.2.1  Political security

 

For any state, the political security has always been the main agenda because their political leaders ultimately determine states and their policy.  A loss of control in the domestic political structure can means a total reversal in their standing. Political security is determined depending on the major ideology of their system. Chinese diaspora become the main problem in SEA during the cold war, not merely in economic term as it was also related to the political issues.  In that time most of the ethnic Chinese who were living abroad have been influence by the ideology of the socialist when they return to China to pursue their education, or through the use of the textbook published by China in sojourner countries. To counter that, almost all of the SEA local government had enforced assimilation policies and restricted the freedom of its nationals to go to China. Even today, Malaysian students who were studying in China were interviewed by the Home Ministry each time they come home, and been asked some simple questions about their time in China[19].

 

This phenomenon had implied that international world would always be on guard for their regime especially from states with different ideology. For the state actor however, they cannot refuse to have diplomatic tie with the giant power of Asia, China.  Especially when they were facing internal political pressure from other ethnic, and they have to attempt to gain ethnic Chinese support for their government. Official trips to Beijing have been one such strategy used to be consolidate support in ethnic community, for example Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir has played the ¡§Chinese card¡¨ before the election last year; and Indonesia President Wahid had tried to reach out to a domestic audience of ethnic Chinese Indonesians after anti-Chinese rioting, by paying a visit to Beijing.

 

Military government in Myanmar have opened the borderline door to the Chinese who are experienced intense flooding in Southern China 2 years ago, because without Chinese diaspora support, the military regime might be ended[20]. In Thailand, President Jiang Zemin has praised Thai leaders for implementing ¡§nationality equality¡¨ policy[21], but sino-Thais candidate have been criticized in the election.[22] Their political future will have to depend on the disposition of Thai economy and on the nature of the relations with the China.

 

All this showed that diasporic issues could become a part of the political security concerns and from there it can affect the international relations of the states involved.

1.5.2.2  Economic security

 

The Malaysian Chinese survey showed that most of the target population believe Chinese diaspora has an important role in the economic sectors. Not surprisingly, Chinese diaspora had always been known as ¡§Predator¡¨ of wealth, because of their capacity in dealing and strengthening their property. Even though Chinese diaspora is not considered ¡§problem¡¨ in the ASEAN in this regards, they do have other significant and crucial roles in the regional economy development. Chinese diaspora constitutes only 6 percent of the population of the five ASEAN countries (excluding Brunei), but account for 70 percent of the capital. In Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia, where Chinese make up less than 10 percent of the population, their capital estimated account for the majority of the total capital of all listed companies. [23]

 

A popular quote that ¡§The Chinese constitute only 3.5 percent of the population but control 70 percent of Indonesia¡¦s economy[24]¡¨ has engendered unity and caused resentment between the indigenous people and ethnic Chinese. Chinese diasporas in Indonesia were stereotyped as rich minority[25] and caused racial riots in the period of financial crisis. In 1998, Chinese Indonesian fled and took out estimated an US$30 billion from Indonesia. Surharto 32-years regime had been over toppled and his successor President Habibe has underestimated the economic contribution from Indonesian Chinese and Chinese diasporic investors from Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Thus the existence of diaspora gives rise to the question of economic security. The economic wealth commanded by the Chinese can cause boom and bust in the Southeast Asian. Securing economic security requires delicate handling of ethnic relationship and international relation with China, Taiwan and other diasporic state. Chinese diaspora is a powerful giant in economic arena but vulnerable in the political stages. Nevertheless, the local government will need their capitalist network and abilities to maintain the state power in competitive IPE. 

 

1.5.3      The question of transnational influence

 

Overseas Chinese capitalism uses their network to collaborate and establishes their business link through the same kinship ties[26]. Overseas Chinese patriots are regarded as a constructive force for China¡¦s economic development and as a bridge across the Taiwan Strait that will lead toward political unification. China aimed to mobilize Overseas Chinese support via the network of the educational centre. Most of the Overseas Chinese Students after returning to their home countries worked as teachers, cultural worked and professionals, and many of them were involved in businesses and politics. They became the vanguards of Taiwan¡¦s business penetration into Southeast Asian countries. Nanyang Daily News reported that thirty thousands Malaysian who are Taiwan Universities¡¦ Alumni have become the bridging contacts for the Taiwan-Malaysia business link, and effectively served as a bridge for Taiwan¡¦s investment in the region[27].

 

Taiwan authorities have established Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission (OCAC), which functioned as the main organisation to mobilize all the Chinese around the globe to communicate, and collaborates culturally or economically. Singapore on the other hand has established The Singapore Chamber of Commerce and Industry that functioned as the first computer network to link ethnic Chinese executive across the world and will be used to promote cultural and economic rather than political links.[28] The capitalism network of Chinese diaspora has been endowed with three competitive factors: speed, knowledge, and guanxi (relations)[29], guanxi has notably lead to their government forging diplomatic relations with China in order to expand their economic activities to China.

1.5.3.1  Chinese capitalism network

 

Diaspora Chinese have guanxi mostly with their own province (based on their ascendant came from and what dialect is); kinship/clan (according of surname) and others form of association. The guanxi networks are presented as crucial to the nature of ethnic Chinese business and basically represent the framework of the overall view as nepotism, cronyism and corruption. Tracy [1996] has investigated diaspora capitalism network among Hong Kong, Indonesia and Malaysia tycoons who sought to form partnerships to explore the various economic areas for their business empire. For instance, the long-standing informal alliance between the two richest men in Malaysia Robert Kuok and Indonesia Liem Sioe Liong who are both Hokkien, and Mr Liem and Malaysia Genting founder Lim Goh Tong have ties in the kinship (both Hokkian and same surname); Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing and President of Bangkok Bank Chatri Sophononpanich, both are Teochew.

 

1.5.3.2  Conduit of investment

 

Chinese diaspora also served as the conduit for international investment. Wilson Nababan speaks frankly when he says: ¡§we need Chinese business to attract foreign investment.¡¨ He is the president of the credit analysis firm CISI Raya Utama in Jakarta who makes the statement after Indonesian Chinese remove large amount of fund from the state following riot in several cities.[30] Chinese Diaspora in Vietnam was seen by the Hanoi government to have a bigger role in the country economy, because of their Chinese community links with Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore that can help promote foreign investment. In China, Chinese diaspora capitalist contributed over 80% of foreign direct investment, and tycoons such as Li Ka Sing whose companies are now involved in building a container port in southern China and Robert Kuok, a Malaysian entrepreneur and partner in the Beijing World Trade Centre which is the largest commercial property project in China were serving the role as political advisers to the government in Beijing.[31]

 

Chinese diaspora in ASEAN are becoming a good partnership or employee for Newly Industry Countries (NIC) since 1980s. For example, Taiwan which was ranked as the second largest foreign investor and the fourth largest trade partnership in Malaysia up to the end of 1999[32].  Taiwan businessmen prefer to invest in Malaysia because of the Chinese in Malaysia who spoke same language, avoiding the problem of communication. Similarly, they prefer to employ ethnic Chinese in their business in Indonesia.

 

1.6      Conclusion

 

My analysis in this chapter showed that the present day Chinese diaspora no longer have the same inclination towards China as what they used to have. To them, nationalism is about their own sojourn country which they consider their homeland. This was backup with results from my survey in Appendix A where most respondent shows little interest in the going-on in China and Taiwan.

 

Chinese diaspora also presents proposition to the analysis of IR.  I identified three main implications of Chinese diaspora in IR, namely The question of identity which explored the issues of being Chinese and having multiple identities, The question of security which consider the Southeast Asian nations¡¦ dilemma in having diasporic Chinese as their citizens and The question of transnational influence where the diasporic network impart profound significance to the societal analysis of International Relations. Having established the existence of questions of diaspora, my next task is to focus on linking the theory and discourse the contribution of diaspora to International Relations.


[1] The famous saying to describe Overseas Chinese with world-wide distribution

[2] Dudley, Mao and Yu [1994]

[3] Kegley and Wittkopf [1999: 289]

[4] See Yen Ching Hwang [1976]

[5] See Wang Gung Wu [1992:11-39]

[6] Ibid. Based on this explanation, Wang excluded the land forming the countries such as Vietnam, Laos, Burma, and Siam Chinese as apart from Southeast Ocean, ¡§Nanyang¡¨.

[7] See Gaddis [1991]

[8] Kao, M. [1956 cited in Fitsgerald 1970:4]

[9] Wang.  [1991:8]

[10] Straits settlement commonly refers to those who are living in Singapore-Malaya.

[11] For instances, British had notably developed their coolie trade to Straits Settlements, Canada, and Australian; Spain arranged movement to Philippines and North of America.

[12] Lever-Tracy et al. [1996:95]

[13] Under principal of ius soli, nationality can be acquired by birth or may be a result simply of birth within the territory of the state, as the British approved the strait settlement; ius sanguinis is another principal, which of birth to a parent who is a national, wherever the birth occurs.

[14] Bar-Yaacov, N [1961 cited in Coppel, Hugh and Mabbett [1982:2]

[15] In the violence against ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, Thailand officials offered permanent residency to wealthy ethnic-Chinese fleeing Indonesia and offered them immunity from restrictions on foreign ownership. The plan was intended to allow for a much-needed injection of cash into the Thai economy.

[16] Business Times news on 9th Dec 1995 [cited in Khan, M (creator) and Young Kathie (update)]

[17] Go, Robert [2000]

[18] Clifford James [cited in Docker, John 2000]

[19] See The Sraits Times news on 22nd Feb 2000. From what I know, those that study in Taiwan do not get this treatment.

[20] Tatlow, Dermot [1999] described that RMB 5,000 can buy identity documents which can be purchase from Burmese families in which someone just died, then altered and resold to a new migrant.

[21] Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 2nd September 1999; and Japan Economic Newswire, September 4 cited in Khan, M (creator) and Young Kathie (update) [ISU]

[22] The independent news on 17th Nov 1996 (cited in Ibid) reported that elections in Thailand were marred by an unprecedented level of vote-buying and election-related violence, as well as a ¡§far from typical¡¨ degree of anti-racism, particularly by the Democratic Party.

[23] Nomura Research Institute [1993 cited in Ibid]

[24] Aditjondro [1998]

[25] Ibid. Aditjondro pointed that the academically reported figures were not fair and did not look into the exact distribution, because most of the wealth were handled by a few tycoon. Percentage values cannot present the fact that most of the ethnic Indonesia has the most share of the wealth of state.

[26] See Tracy [1996].

[27] Nanyang Daily News (in Chinese), 1st April 2000.

[28] Business Times news on12th Sept 95

[29] Haley, Tan and Haley [1988].

[30] Ibid

[31] Yang, C., [1993].

[32] News in Nanyang Daily News (Malaysia Chinese Press) on 30 Apr 00 reported that total trade between Taiwan and Malaysia USD6730,000,000 and total Taiwan¡¦s investment in Malaysia accumulated up to USD86050,0000,000.  http://www.nanyang.com.my/articles/1-5-2000g07.htm 

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