Presentation: Communities in the Age of Mass Migration
Section I (P.153-170) by Hiraku Arai
Key words: Chinese intermediaries, affinity groups
Certainly, the technological advancement acerbated the mass migration of Chinese immigrants into South East Asia in the nineteenth century. However, there had been a history of Chinese immigrant communities in the region prior to the Chinese mass migration.
Long-settled Chinese immigrant communities in South East Asia thrived on the changing colonial policies in the region by successfully adapting to the changing environments. Kuhn provides examples of successful Chinese merchants in Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaya, and Siam. In these four different locations, some segments Chinese immigrants became wealthy by working as intermediaries between the colonialists and the native population. Their business activities included the collection of tax from the native populations, leasing of land, money lending, collection and processing of crops in the rural areas, marketing of imported goods to the natives, and even sales of opium. Moreover, they succeeded in generating profit by trading between countryside and cities: buying rural produce for urban consumption and foreign export and selling imported goods to the country folk.
As described, early Chinese immigrants to South East Asia became successful “business men” by working as intermediaries between the colonial powers and the native populations.
In the next section, Kuhn describes the early development of Chinese immigrant affinity groups in South East Asia from the perspective of their culture.
Early Chinese immigrants created communities in SEA with the notion of compatriotism where “one dialect group dominated the Chinese community and its merchant elite became community leaders.” These groups helped the Chinese immigrants identify themselves with people from the same county, town, or village. These communities often held unique rituals...