In This Review

Liem Sioe Liong's Salim Group: The Business Pillar of Suharto's Indonesia
Liem Sioe Liong's Salim Group: The Business Pillar of Suharto's Indonesia
By Richard Borsuk and Nancy Chng
Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2014, 574 pp

This study of Indonesia’s most successful entrepreneur, who died in 2012 at the age of 95, is a contribution to both business history and political history. The story of the Salim Group’s expansion into flour, cement, banking, noodles, and countless other fields illuminates the symbiotic relationship between businesspeople and politicians during the reign of Suharto, Indonesia’s president from 1967 until 1998. The Javanese-born Suharto and the Chinese-born Liem Sioe Liong were both tough men with smiling exteriors who held mystical beliefs and were fascinated by money. Suharto provided Liem with access and protection, and Liem served as a discreet source of funds for Suharto’s political and personal use. In the 1990s, Liem struggled to keep his footing as the increasingly erratic Suharto launched rhetorical attacks on the business class, dominated by ethnic Chinese, while tolerating rampant corruption by his cronies and even his own children. Borsuk and Chng’s sources were not shy about explaining how business was really done during Suharto’s time—and, no doubt, is still done—not only in Indonesia but also throughout Asia.