47.6% of pribumi respondents agree that ‘Chinese Indonesians may still harbor loyalty towards China’: survey


It’s been nearly 30 years since anti-Chinese violence swept through parts of the Indonesian capital, but former Jakarta Governor Basuki “Ahok” Tjahaja Purnama’s election loss and jailing earlier this year has renewed concerns about hostile feelings between pribumi (literally meaning “inlanders”, the term is used to describe members of the majority population groups considered to be “native” Indonesians) towards the Chinese-Indonesian minority. 

A new report from the Singapore-based ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, titled Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public, asked members of the majority group to quantify negative perceptions about the minority group as part of a larger survey project. According to the report’s executive summary, the two main takeaways are:

  • The majority of pribumi (‘native’) survey respondents agreed to statements about Chinese Indonesians’ alleged economic dominance and privilege, with almost 60% saying that ethnic Chinese are more likely than pribumi Indonesians to be wealthy.
  • The survey confirmed the existence of negative prejudice against ethnic Chinese influence in Indonesian politics and economy, and many pribumi believe that Chinese Indonesians may harbour divided national loyalties.

On that last point, the report notes that it is both interesting and worrying “that a considerable 47.6% of respondents agree that ‘Chinese Indonesians may still harbour loyalty towards China,’ even though almost all ethnic Chinese in Indonesia today are Indonesian citizens.”

READ: 91% of Indonesian Muslims say there would be benefits to the country implementing sharia law: survey

Other statements about negative perceptions of Chinese Indonesian exclusivity drew similar levels of agreement:

Graph: “Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public”, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute

The survey was administered by Lembaga Survei Indonesia (LSI, Indonesian Survey Institute) between May 20-30, right in the aftermath of Ahok’s election loss in April and his blasphemy verdict in early May. The report’s authors acknowledge that “perhaps it should not be too much of a surprise for us to see heightened negativity towards Chinese Indonesians” at that time but concludes that the results are still “alarming because they show that, despite the reforms of the past two decades, old stereotypes of ethnic Chinese still persist and are perhaps stronger than before.”

The questions about negative perceptions about Chinese-Indonesians were asked as part of  ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute’s Indonesia National Survey Project: Economy, Society and Politics (INSP), which took place from May 20-30 and was conducted across all 34 Indonesian provinces, gathered through face-to-face interviews with 1,620 adult Indonesian citizens using a multi-stage cluster sampling method to accurately represent all provinces proportionately.

The survey also controversially found that 91% of Indonesian Muslims say there would be benefits to the country implementing sharia law.

Read the full report: Chinese Indonesians in the Eyes of the Pribumi Public (ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute)

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