A violent protest erupting in Jakarta, Indonesia on Wednesday frightened the Chinese Indonesian community as anti-China hoaxes spread around the country.
The community feared that the nightmare of 1998 could return.
Thanks to the efforts of the Indonesian government, the volatile situation was brought under control.
Keeping a cool head this time, the local authorities took immediate measures, including temporarily restricting functions of social media to halt anti-China fake news, which falsely stated that several protesters had been shot dead by “police from China.”
The anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia is rooted in unbalanced economic development, which has created a big gap between the rich and the poor.
Some in the Chinese community are relatively wealthy. Some Indonesians often choose to vent their anger toward the Chinese community. We see this in a number of infamous anti-Chinese incidents in Indonesia’s history.
Chanting slogans such as “Usir Cina” (kick Chinese out) and “Awas Asing” (beware of foreigners), the protester was clearly against Chinese investment and President Joko Widodo’s openness to it.
The latest riots have rung the alarm for Indonesian government warning that it must always pay attention to anti-China sentiment and better protect the rights of Chinese companies and community in the country.
Current sentiments could negatively affect today’s relations between China and Indonesia, especially as the two countries are promoting cooperation under the framework of the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Beijing should support Jakarta in its efforts to crack down on the crimes that invoke nationalism. This will help stabilize the situation in Indonesia and will also strengthen the confidence of foreign investors. Stability is what Indonesia needs to develop.
When promoting cooperation, companies need to care more about the feelings of local residents by being more transparent.
In this way, local residents will understand that Chinese investment is conducive to their livelihood and not about robbing their resources or squeezing their living space.
It is not easy to eliminate the hostility against Chinese that has been deeply rooted in the island country for hundreds of years.
Worse, in the internet age, malicious messages can be easily spread to incite people who don’t want to distinguish between truth from ill-intended rumour.
Behind these messages are vicious groups who take advantage of ethnic and religious sentiments, including anti-Chinese racism, to mobilise people to win favour for their political purpose.
China has been Indonesia’s largest trading partner for many years. Stable China-Indonesia relations are a requirement for further development.
The Indonesian government must be more vigilant in preventing anti-China nationalist sentiments from being used maliciously, which could cause incalculable losses to the country.