[ISG] Anti-sinicism and support for foreign investment in Indonesia


On 21 February ISG, Diego Fossati tries to address the extent of anti-Chinese in the Indonesian mass public and its variation across various population segments. Although the scholarly literature on the subject is massive, there’s no accurate data to measure the phenomenon. By leveraging on a national survey commissioned by ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, Diego tries to answer the question many not able to answer so far such as how anti-Chinese prejudice is associated with sociodemographic variables and various attitudinal factors. Also, Diego analyses the effect of anti-Sinicism on policy preferences on foreign investment, an area in which Chinese Indonesians have historically played a prominent role.

Data from the survey confirm what many has said before: there are high levels of prejudice toward Chinese among Indonesians. To capture prejudice among Indonesians, Diego applied a novel approach. In this approach, Diego divides two stereotype story which often imposed on Chinese by Indonesians. First, substantial Indonesian thought Chinese Indonesian has a privilege that is they reach economic success resulting from greed, excessive ambition and unfair advantage, at the same time, this domination by Chinese, both economically and politically, are thought to be at the expenses of pribumi groups. Second, many Indonesians believe that Chinese is different culturally than them. They see Chinese culture is not compatible with “Indonesian values” and their religion is distinct compare to other, which suggest that Chinese is disloyal to the national cause. Diego, then, designed statements based on these prejudices and asked toward Indonesian whether they agree, disagree, or neither to the statement. Utilizing this data, Diego finds, “prejudice toward Chinese Indonesians is widespread, and there’s no variation in anti-Chinese prejudice across gender, location (urban/rural), educational attainment, income and profession, although there is an association with religion and with political Islam.”

“This prejudice toward Chinese Indonesians may have a powerful effect on policy preferences,” Diego further claimed. Using hypothetical vignettes question in the survey, Diego able to capture the effect of the prejudice on policy preferences among samples. The vignette varies at random in two key attributes that are religion (Christian, Muslim, or no information) and ethnicity (Chinese, Arab, or no information). Diego finds ethnic cues have a robust and adverse effect; while Chinese cue is much stronger than Arab (but only in Muslim respondents) and the impact of religious cues is smaller, and not significant in non-Muslims.

The presentation material for this discussion is available for download here.