In This Review

Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War
Migration in the Time of Revolution: China, Indonesia, and the Cold War
By Taomo Zhou
318 pp, Cornell University Press, 2019

This impressively researched study of Sino-Indonesian relations from 1945 to 1967 links three levels of diplomacy: state-to-state relations between China and Indonesia’s leftist leader Sukarno, party-to-party relations between the Chinese Communist Party and the Indonesian Communist Party, and the struggle between the rival regimes in Beijing and Taipei for influence over Indonesia’s ethnic Chinese community. Chinese and Indonesian archives show how Beijing and Jakarta cooperated in the fluid politics of the global anti-imperialist movement, siding in 1963–64 against what they viewed as a British imperialist plot to create Malaysia, a new state formed by the merger of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore. The book dispels the myth that China directed the attempted coup in 1965 that led to the rise of the anticommunist strongman General Suharto, a break in Sino-Indonesian relations, and a massacre of suspected Communists, many of them ethnic Chinese. The Beijing-Taipei contest for influence in the ethnic Chinese community exacerbated the suspicion that the Chinese represented a fifth column. Throughout the turbulent politics of the time, Chinese Indonesians were victims of discrimination and violence, paradoxically accused both of capitalist exploitation and of pro-Beijing loyalties—suspicions that persist even today, when the two countries have full diplomatic and economic ties.