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Chinese Encounters
in Southeast Asia

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Chinese ENCOUNTERS in
Southeast Asia

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How People, Money, and Ideas from China


Are Changing a Region

Edited by Pl Nyri and Danielle Tan

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Foreword by Wang Gungwu

University of Washington Press | Seattle and London

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Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia was made possible by support from


IRASEC (www.irasec.com).

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Copyright 2017 by the University of Washington Press


Printed and bound in the United States of America
Composed in Minion Pro, a typeface designed by Robert Slimbach
212019181754321

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This publication also was supported by the Donald R. Ellegood


International Publications Endowment.

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University of Washington Press


www.washington.edu/uwpress

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All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form
or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information
storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data


Names: Nyri, Pl, editor. | Tan, Danielle, editor. | Container of (work): Nyri, Pl. Investors,
managers, brokers, and culture workers.
Title: Chinese encounters in Southeast Asia : how people, money, and ideas from China are
changing a region / edited by Pl Nyri and Danielle Tan ; foreword by Wang Gungwu.
Description: Seattle : University of Washington Press, [2017] | Includes bibliographical
references and index.
Identifiers: LCCN 2016027761 | ISBN 9780295999296 (hardcover : alk. paper) | ISBN
9780295999302 (pbk. : alk. paper)
Subjects: LCSH : Southeast AsiaRelationsChina. | ChinaRelationsSoutheast Asia. |
Southeast AsiaCivilizationChinese influences. | ChineseSoutheast Asia.
Classification: LCC DS 525.9.C 5 C 54 2017 | DDC 303.48/259051dc23
LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2016027761

The paper used in this publication is acid-free and meets the minimum requirements of
American National Standard for Information SciencesPermanence of Paper for Printed
Library Materials, ANSI Z39.481984.

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Contents

Foreword by Wang Gungwu

vii

List of Abbreviations

Introduction: Chinas Rise in Southeast Asia from a


Bottom-Up Perspective
Pl Nyri and Danielle Tan3

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Part 1. Identities

Investors, Managers, Brokers, and Culture Workers:


How Migrants from China Are Changing the
Meaning of Chineseness in Cambodia
Pl Nyri 25

2.

Multiplying Diversities: How New


Chinese Mobilities Are Changing Singapore
Brenda S. A. Yeoh and Weiqiang Lin42

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1.

3.

Translocal Pious Entrepreneurialism: Hui Business


and Religious Activities in Malaysia and Indonesia
Hew Wai Weng 58

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Part 2. Livelihoods
4. Border Guanxi: Xinyimin and Transborder
Trade in Northern Thailand
Aranya Siriphon 79
5.

Ambivalent Encounters: Business and the


Sex Markets at the China-Vietnam Borderland
Caroline Grillot and Juan Zhang 97

Part 3. Norms
Entangling Alliances: Elite Cooperation and
Competition in the Philippines and China
Caroline S. Hau 119

7.

Chinese Enclaves in the Golden Triangle Borderlands:


An Alternative Account of State Formation in Laos
Danielle Tan 136

8.

China in Burma: A Multiscalar Political Economy Analysis


Kevin Woods157

9.

Water Governance in the Mekong Basin: Scalar Trade-offs,


Transnational Norms, and Chinese Hydropower Investment
Oliver Hensengerth174

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6.

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Part 4. Aspirations

Search for Knowledge as Far as China!


Indonesian Responses to the Rise of China
Johanes Herlijanto 195

11.

Stimulating Circuits: Chinese Desires and


Transnational Affective Economies in Southeast Asia
Chris Lyttleton 214

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10.

235

References

237

Contributors

271

Index

275

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Glossary

Foreword

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Wa n g G u n g w u

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Relations between Southeast Asia and other interested powers, most notably
China, are quickly changing. Some events cause alarm bells to ring in state
capitals, distracting attention from developments occurring at nonstate
levels that might produce significant social, economic, or cultural changes.
In this volume of rich empirical studies, the authors seek to understand
what is happening on the ground in Southeast Asia by paying attention to
recent Chinese commercial initiatives and their impact on local societies and
enterprises. In the introduction, volume editors Pl Nyri and Danielle Tan
highlight a bottom-up perspective and provide a succinct and persuasive
case for a fresh look at new Chinese ventures.
Of particular interest are initiatives in mainland Southeast Asia of
entrepreneurs from China and the Chinese diaspora who are opening up
remote border areas and bringing agents of different hues to these zones.
Are the local responses of the multiplicity of mountain peoples harbingers
of modernization or not? Regardless, these activities are helping the states of
Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam to consolidate their hold over often
inaccessible areas. How these efforts affect future interstate relations, particularly those with China, will be of growing interest to neighbors throughout
Southeast Asia. There is a case for taking a longer perspective on regional
change where the agency of the Chinese is concerned. The contributions in
this volume foreground two questions surrounding Chinese engagements
with Southeast Asia: who defines what is Chinese, and can old and new ideas
of statehood coexist?
When I first wrote about the Nanyang Chinese in 1958, I was struck by
the way Chinas officials in the Ming (13681644) and Qing (16441911)
dynasties described their subjects who traded to the south, especially those
who had gone abroad without approval. Among the harshest were terms
referring to these people as outlaws, bandits, and pirates from the Min-Yue
(Fujian and Guangdong Provinces). There was no word for them as Chinese (or its equivalent in different languages), the name that other groups
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F or e wor d

used as a generic term for people from that large empire. The Qing introduced the culture-based term Hua, which could include Manchu and Han.
At the end of the nineteenth century, faced with new ideas of national identity, the ending qiao (sojourn) was added to help all Hua in the Nanyang
(Southern Sea) to see themselves as sojourners temporarily living abroad
but no less subjects of the empire. Until then, these trading peoples from
southern China had thrived in a terrain without clear borders. The Chinese
state was not greatly interested, and local kingdoms and European colonial
and trading authorities found merchants from China, who, most of the time,
cooperated profitably, useful.
Different Chinese communities thus learned to look after themselves
locally. When they wanted to extend their activities, they did so through a
variety of tightly knit networks. During the twentieth century the Republic
of China, and later the Peoples Republic of China, affirmed that all Chinese
should be treated as a single group of Nanyang Huaqiao. These disparate
communities, given a distinct name, were identified by the government as
belonging to the Chinese nation. The right to decide who is Chinese became
increasingly political. By the 1950s the label Nanyang Chinese no longer
described the Chinese in Southeast Asia. In the countries I knew something
aboutIndonesia, Malaya, Philippines, and Thailandthe differences
among the population that was called Chinese seemed as great as their
similarities. On the ground, even the various Chinese groups within Malaya
were different from one another. A new kind of polity, the nation-state, was
replacing the colonial state, which further underlined the difficulties the
Chinese in the region faced thereafter.
Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia draws attention to another feature
of diversity throughout the region. As the countries made their transition
to new sovereign states, even greater differences emerged when in the 1990s
the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) achieved its regional
identity with the addition of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam. This
called for new views concerning the future place of Chinese immigrants in
these countries. Three of these countries have historical overland relationships with China, and Cambodia (like Thailand) has had significant overland
(especially along the Mekong River) and maritime links. Through extensive
fieldwork, several authors show that land borders may be no less open than
maritime borders. Their contributions highlight phenomena that have been
true for centuries but neglected in the scholarly literature, in part because the
global forces of modernization depended more on transportation by sea. The

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fact that borderless oceans could determine the range and scope of a modern
world economy in ways unknown before the eighteenth century led many to
ignore overland connections.
The essays in this volume thus point to something that the Chinese had
never been seen to have done before. Under certain circumstances, as in the
highlands of the northern Southeast Asian mainland, the Chinese could
represent a force for modernization. On one side, typically viewed as positive growth, are roads and railways, plantations and factories, fresh urban
sites with the latest technical facilities. On the other are developments that
are strikingly negative: innovative gambling centers, vicious crime, and
mindless consumerism on an unheard-of scale, on top of the traditional
vices of drugs, human trafficking, and alcoholism for which the region had
been renowned. The difference is that this modern mix of activities now
takes place in countries with internationally recognized borders. Concerned
officials are quite aware of the role of a new wave of adventurers from China,
as well as of other diasporic Chinese, in shaping these developments. How
these realities consolidate control for the young states, and whether or not
that consolidation will reinforce their boundaries, deserves closer attention.
Exploring these themes may contribute additional insights into the nature
of state building among new nations.
The chapters on developments in island Southeast Asia are no less interesting in demonstrating the interactions resulting from a rising China and
dynamic local economies. The Muslim Hui from northwestern China, for
example, have added novel features to Chinese enterprise in Malaysia. Chinese princelings have reached out to their equivalents in the Philippines,
and these partnerships illuminate innovative political dimensions in SinoFilipino business cooperation. For the first time in centuries, Indonesian
entrepreneurs seek to explore opportunities with Chinese in China that had
been largely forgotten during the colonial era. Not least remarkable is how
the unique multicultural identity of Singapore, and the exceptional relationship between China and Singapore, is being tested by local Singaporean
Chinese responding to the arrival of hundreds of thousands of xinke (new
guests) from the Peoples Republic.
Many scholars expected that the reemergence of a strong and prosperous
China would usher in changes for Southeast Asia, not least for those of Chinese descent. But no one anticipated the speed and scale of Chinas rise. Few
could have predicted that new Chinese could enter the region in so many
new ways. Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia provides a view of what has

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become possible, and the fine analyses here alert the reader that the overseas
Chinese story is far from finished. Fresh empirical research is likely to take
us further, even to the extent of matching new overseas Chinese roles to the
larger story of rising Asia. This invaluable volume points to future work in
that direction.

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Abbreviations

Association of Chinese in Cambodia

ACFTA

ASEANChina Free Trade Area

ADB

Asian Development Bank

AFTA

ASEAN Free Trade Agreement

AIIB

Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank

ASEAN

Association of Southeast Asian Nations

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BOT build-operate-transfer

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ACC

Chinese Communist Party

CCTV

China Central Television

CDC

Council for the Development of Cambodia

CICT

Commission on Information and Communications Technology

CLMV

Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam

CMIO

Chinese, Malay, Indian, Other

CPB

Communist Party of Burma

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CCP

Cambodian Peoples Party

DFID

Department for International Development (UK)

DOTC

Department of Transportation and Communication (Philippines)

EIA

(1) environmental impact assessment;


(2) Environmental Investigation Agency (UK)

FDI

foreign direct investment

GDP

gross domestic product

GMS

Greater Mekong Subregion

HMI

Himpunan Mahasiswa Islam


(Islamic Student Association, Indonesia)

IAIN

Institut Agama Islam Negeri (State Islamic Institute, Indonesia)

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CPP

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A bbr e v i at ion s

IFC

International Finance Corporation

IISD

International Institute for Sustainable Development

IIU

International Islamic University


(Universiti Islam Antarabangsa, Malaysia)

ISEAS

Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore)

KDNG

Kachin Development Networking Group (Burma)

KMT

Kuomintang (National Peoples Party, China/Taiwan)

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MACMA Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association


Ministry of Industry, Mines, and Energy (Cambodia)

MMN

Mekong Migration Network

MOE

Ministry of Environment (Cambodia)

MRC

Mekong River Commission

NBN

National Broadband Network (Philippines)

NBR

National Bureau of Asian Research (United States)

NCSEZ

National Committee for Special and Specific Economic Zones (Laos)

NEDA

National Economic and Development Authority (Philippines)

NGO

nongovernmental organization

NSEC

North-South Economic Corridor

OCMA

Overseas Chinese Muslim Association (Malaysia)

ODA

overseas development assistance

ODI

outbound direct investment

PAS

Parti Al-Islam Se-Malaysia (Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party)

PDIP

Partai Demokratik Indonesia-Perjuangan (Indonesian Democratic Party


of Struggle)

PDR

Peoples Democratic Republic

PITI

Persatuan Islam Tionghoa Indonesia (Indonesian Chinese Muslim


Association)

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MIME

PKI

Partai Komunis Indonesia (Indonesian Communist Party)

PKS

Partai Keadilan Sejahtera (Prosperous Justice Party, Indonesia)

PRC

Peoples Republic of China

SEZ

Special Economic Zone

SOE

state-owned enterprise

TELOF

Telecommunications Office (Philippines)

A bbr e v i at ion s

UKM

Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (Malaysian National University)

UNEP

United Nations Environmental Program

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UNESCO United Nations Educational, Social, and Cultural Organization


US Agency for International Development

WCD

World Commission on Dams

WTO

World Trade Organization

ZTE

Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment Company Limited

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USAID

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Chinese Encounters
in Southeast Asia

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Chinas Rise in Southeast Asia


from a Bottom-Up Perspective

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Introduction

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P l N y r i a n d D a n i e l l e Ta n

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O n 8 M a r c h 2 0 1 4 , a M a l ays i a A i r l i n e s f l i g h t w i t h 1 5 4
Chinese passengers on board vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. Its exact fate remains unknown, although the airplane is assumed to
have crashed in the Indian Ocean. The search involved numerous Chinese
vessels and was the most extensive such operation in history. In the wake of
the event, Chinese media dispatched scores of correspondents to Kuala Lumpur and took a critical stance toward the Malaysian authorities investigation,
as did the Chinese government. In the New York Times, Edward Wong (2014)
wrote that the apparent ineffectiveness of the investigation reinforced existing cultural prejudices and perceptions of the Chinese political systems
superiority. In Beijing, angry family members clashed with police in front of
the Malaysian embassy and burned Malaysian flags. In Malaysia, these events
generated a backlash against China, expressed in traditional terms of security
fears and suspicion of Chinas communist government. One journalist said
that the reaction put China back in its place (Channel NewsAsia 2014). In
China, the lackluster performance of the countrys media in investigating
the incident resulted in some soul-searching by Chinese journalists about
the limits of what Chinas soft (or hard) power can achieve and whether the
countrys investment in expanding its media overseas has been worthwhile.
The disappearance of the Malaysia Airlines plane and the events that followed encapsulate the changed relations between China and Southeast Asia
that this book explores.
3

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Air traffic between China and Southeast Asia today is dominated by Chinese tourists, businesspeople, skilled immigrants, and students. These individuals articulate their own grievances in ways that can be harnessed by, but
can also disrupt and even undermine, nationalist agendas or state-to-state
relations. Often, these grievances come from affluent urban residents such
as the relatives of the crash victims, but occasionally actions by marginalized populationssuch as the illegal strike organized by Chinese bus drivers
on short-term labor contracts in Singapore in August 2013can resonate
widely, too. In part, that is thanks to the transformation of communication
channels: Chinese-language social networks provide shared platforms for
people in China, migrant populations, and the regions Chinese-speaking
populations. Mainland Chinas television, radio, and press have an increasingly important presence in Southeast Asia, and it is estimated that more
than 80percent of the online readers of Singapores main Chinese daily,
Lianhe Zaobao, are in China (Sun 2013). Tourists stories, traders experiences, microblogs going viral, even filmssuch as Lost in Thailand (Ren zai
jiong tu zhi Tai jiong), Chinas highest-grossing film ever, or Assalamualaikum Beijing! (Peace be upon you, Beijing!)shape the mutual views of Chinese and Southeast Asians, sometimes in unpredictable ways. In the Malaysia
Airlines case, popular mood in China, which antagonized Malaysians,
appeared to undo efforts by the Chinese government to build a perception
of China as an attractive model of economic development and a benevolent
regional power, a view that, despite tensions in the South China Sea, has been
taking root across the region (see chapter 10).
Clearly, then, an understanding of ChinaSoutheast Asia relations must
be based on much more than the conventional analyses of governmentto-government relationships, which are typically dominated by maritime
disputes, military strategies, and Chinas economic engagement. This volume
is intended as a complement to such realist analyses; it does not deal with
issues central to a conventional security-based approach. However, that does
not mean we ignore the significance of such an approach: to the contrary, our
perspective sometimes reinforces the importance of great-power politics,
elite deals, and political alliances. The anti-Chinese violence in Vietnam in
May 2014, for example, which resulted in the hasty departure of thousands
of Chinese managers and the adoption of a government strategy to reduce
reliance on Chinese investment, showed how easily day-to-day business
can give way to conflict when manipulated by governments and media (see
chapter 5). Similarly, the Burmese armys military campaign against ethnic

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Chinese rebels in Kokang, which involved the bombing of Chinese territory


amid accusations that volunteer fighters from China were taking part in the
conflict, showed that the logic of using Chinese investors to help control the
restless border can easily be overwritten, if the power balance shifts, by a
more conventional insistence on full sovereignty (see chapter 8).
This book aims to provide a nuanced analysis to counter the dominant binary view of Chinese engagements in Southeast Asia, showing
that Southeast Asian states are not simply engaged in either balancing or
bandwagoning with China. It begins by sketching the context in which
these engagements take place, then moves on to identify the ways in which
Southeast Asian countries mitigate their unequal power relations with China
by describing how government officials, businesspeople, workers, and peasants negotiate asymmetry, circumvent hegemony, and embrace, resist, or
manipulate the terms dictated by Chinese capital.

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Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century

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The ChinaSoutheast Asia relationship has largely been examined within the
wider frame of Chinas rise as a global power. In August 2010, China officially surpassed Japan to become the worlds second-largest economy, with
the second-largest military budget behind that of the United Statesabout
US$132 billion in 2014, according to Chinese official data (Economist 2014).
Less noticed, but highly significant, is that in 2012, China also became the
worlds largest tourist-sending country with the highest per capita tourist
spending (World Tourism Organization 2013). Since the 2008 recession,
Chinas outbound direct investment (ODI) flows have risen sharply and in
a sustained fashion as a result of the going out (zouchuqu) strategy Beijing implemented in the early 2000s to accelerate overseas expansion and
acquisitions by Chinese companies. Chinas ODI reached a record high of
US$87.8 billion in 2012, pushing China up the global ODI rankings from
sixth place in 2011 to third place, after the United States and Japan. It grew
further, to nearly US$108 billion, in 2013. In 2014, Chinas ODI surged to
US$116 billion, almost equal to the level of foreign direct investment (FDI)
in the country at US$120 billion (Ministry of Commerce [China] 2015). The
economic slowdown that hit China in 2015 tightened the money supply but
created additional incentives for companies to expand overseas as domestic
growth prospects declined.
Reactions to the appearance of Chinese companies shopping for assets

I n t roduc t ion

and Chinese individuals buying seaside condos have oscillated between


fascination and fear, between enthusiasm and outright hostility, but in some
economically depressed localities, the dominant feeling may have been hope.
In the case of Southeast Asia, in light of Chinas heightened attention to its
South China Sea claims and military modernization, discussion of Chinas
role has focused on the rivalry for regional domination between the United
States and China to the point of sidelining any other angle of approach
(Shambaugh 2004; Vaughn and Morrison 2006; Sutter 2010). As a result,
the existing literature on ChinaSoutheast Asia relations is dominated by
debates over whether China will become the future hegemon capable of
destabilizing the region (Mosher 2000; Mearsheimer 2010; Friedberg 2012)
or will foster a peaceful development whereby all key actors would benefit
from a win-win dynamic (Kang 2009). In assessments of these antagonistic
stances, particular attention is given to large-scale economic, political, and
strategic concerns, such as ASEANs enlargement(Goh 2005; Ba 2009); security diplomacy (Gill 2010; Storey 2013); Chinas aid, investment, trade, and
soft power impact (Percival 2007; Kurlantzick 2007; Rutherford, Lazarus,
and Kelley 2008); or the idea of a possible return to a Sino-centric tributary
system (F. Zhou 2011; Womack 2012).
Beyond the broader debate between international relations theorists
who see Chinas rise as a threat to the existing international system (Yee
and Storey 2004; Mearsheimer 2010), and those who see China as more of
a status quo power (Johnston 2003; Zheng 2010), a more specific discussion concerns its impact on developing countries. Opponents charge that
the combination of investment and development aid that is the hallmark of
Chinas economic presence in poorer countries brings with it a new form of
colonialism, plundering the natural resources of developing countries and
undermining their labor markets by undercutting wages, stymieing efforts to
improve labor conditions, and introducing Chinese labor (Kurlantzick 2007;
Eisenman, Heginbotham, and Derek 2007; Cardenal and Arajo 2013).
Some go as far as to predict that the increasing attractiveness of the so-called
China model or Beijing consensus (Ramo 2004) to the developing world
will result in the spread of an authoritarian capitalist model of development
(Nam 2007; Friedman 2009; Halper 2010).1 A second opinion, from a growing number of scholars, claims that Chinas development experience offers
more useful lessons and its no-nonsense investments provide more tangible
benefits than the Wests participatory development gospel and conditional
aid (Brautigam 2009; Moyo 2009). A third, skeptical view is that Chinas
impact on the world is overestimated, chiefly because its institutions and

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models are unexportable and its soft power is limited (Naughton 2010;
Shambaugh 2013).
Despite growing nuance in the literature on Chinas engagement, especially in Africa (Strauss and Saavedra 2010; Monson and Rupp 2013), analyses that explore what the encounter with China produces in terms of new
social, economic, political, and cultural configurations remain the exception.
The prolific literature on China-in-Africawhich accounts for the bulk
of studies discussing Chinas expanding global presenceis largely based
on analyzing politicians pronouncements, government documents, and
investment promises. This causes it to overestimate the effects of the China
model on political structures but underestimate the impact of face-to-face
encounters on individual livelihoods and aspirations. The disproportionate
focus in the literature on Africa has also obscured the significance of Chinas
emergence as a global player for its closest neighbors (but see Bill, Delaplace, and Humphrey 2012 for a study of interactions across the ChineseRussian and Chinese-Mongolian borders). This omission is particularly
glaring in the case of Southeast Asia, which has historically been the main
theater of Chinas commercial engagement with the world (Lombard 1990;
Reid 1993; Tagliacozzo and Chang 2011) and managed to revive its trade
links through the creation of the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA)
in January 2010. China surpassed Japan and the European Union a year after
ACFTAs full implementation to become ASEANs biggest trading partner.
The 1997 Asian financial crisis offered an opportunity for China to
launch its charm offensive (Kurlantzick 2007) in Southeast Asia and to
demonstrate that it is a peaceful power. Beijings decision not to devalue its
currency and further destabilize the region brought about a positive shift in
the perception among Southeast Asian elites and a strong desire to accelerate
cooperation with China. Between 1990 and 2003 the regions bilateral trade
with China increased more than tenfold, from about US$7 billion to US$78
billion (Chen and Liao 2005), and reached a record volume of US$443.6
billion in 2013, according to the ASEAN-China Centre.2 Since 2004, China
has exempted most agricultural produce from Cambodia, Laos, Burma, and
Vietnam from tariffs, boosting trade under the Early Harvest Program.3
China has also spearheaded novel dynamics of regional economic cooperation by becoming one the main pillars of the Greater Mekong Subregion
(GMS), a development program initiated by the Asian Development Bank
(ADB). Indeed, China has taken an active part in the construction of the
North-South Economic Corridor (NSEC), thereby envisioning the revival of
the ancient caravan trade routes in the Upper Mekong (see chapters 4 and 7).

Urumqi

NORTH
KOREA

Beijing

Pyongyang

Qingdao

Sasebo

CHINA

Guangxi
Guangxi Zhuang
Zhuang
Autonomous Province
Autonomous
Province

Sittwe

LAOS

Hainan
Paracel
Islands

Vientiane

THAILAND
Mergui

PHILIPPINES

Manila

CAMBODIA

Phnom Penh
Sihanoukville

VIETNAM

PACIFIC OCEAN

Fiery Cross
Reef

as

ANDAMAN SEA

Woody Scarborough
Islands
shoal
Spratly
Islands

Olongapo

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Bangkok

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Taipei
Nanning Guangzhou
TAIWAN
Hanoi
Hong Kong

Okinawa

SOUTH
CHINA SEA

MALAYSIA

BRUNEI

Kuala Lumpur

SINGAPORE

of

Strait
of
Malacca

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INDONESIA

1,000 km

ASEAN

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GMS

Pirate
activities

Jakarta

Source : Danielle Tan, 2015

Chinas claim
territorial waters

Hydrocarbon resources

Major maritime
shipping routes

Disputed islands

One belt, one road


strategy

Chinese naval base

Planned Kunming-Singapore
railway by 2021

US naval base

Map I.1. Chinas rise in Southeast Asia

Danielle Tan, Charlotte Aubrun

Kunming
Chittagong (BURMA)
Naypyitaw

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Ningbo
Senkaku-Diaoyu
Islands
Fuzhou

Yunnan
Yunnan
Province
Province

MYANMAR

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Busan

Xian

Kolkata

SOUTH
KOREA

Seoul

I n t roduc t ion

Table I.1. Chinas direct investment stock in ASEAN at the end of 2013 (in US$ billions)

14.75
4.66
2.77
2.47
3.57
2.85
1.67
2.17
0.69
0.07
35.67

23.27
11.21
6.05
5.64
5.56
4.94
4.25
4.18
0.92
0.11
66.13

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Stock Adjusted

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Singapore
Indonesia
Laos
Thailand
Myanmar (Burma)
Cambodia
Malaysia
Vietnam
Philippines
Brunei
Total

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Asia continues to be the largest recipient of Chinese overseas investment,


accounting for 68 percent of total outflows in 2013 (Ministry of Commerce
[China] 2014), but Hong Kong accounts for the bulk of this. This figure,
therefore, may not reflect the final destination of Chinas ODI. Some Chinese
companies initially invest in tax havens or offshore financial centers, such
as Hong Kong or the Cayman Islands, and then reinvest the same money in
other destinations, such as Africa and Latin America, through their subsidiaries in these offshore financial centers. Although there is a widespread perception that Chinese companies are buying up resources around the world,
most investment from China in fact goes to developed economies. Despite
Chinas geographical proximity to Southeast Asia, the European Union and
Japan remain larger sources of investment there, although Chinese investment in Southeast Asia is growing faster than in any other region.
These nationally aggregated figures, however, mask the divergent nature
of investments in places as diverse as rural Laos and globalized Singapore.
The regions most developed economy, Singapore has the highest share of
Chinese ODI, accounting for nearly 50 percent of Chinas accumulated
investment in Southeast Asia. Serving as an entrept for intra-ASEAN trade,
Singapore provides an excellent base for Chinese firms to access regional and
global markets because of its hub status in financial services, trade, shipping, and logistics. As a result, Chinese investment goes predominantly to
the services sector (Zhao 2013). In the low-income countries of mainland

I n t roduc t ion

Southeast Asia, such as Cambodia, Burma, and Laos, reported figures on


Chinese investment lag behind the more developed and diverse economies
of Singapore and, to a lesser extent, Indonesia. Nonetheless, in these small
economiesas in East Timora highly publicized infusion of grants as well
as concessional and commercial loans from China has produced a bonanza
for Chinese infrastructure contractors that has propelled the country to a
central position in financing the transition of remote regions to the cash
economy.
While aid and investment policies are often discussed separately, a
practice-oriented perspective sees no clear line between the two. The Chinese government views both as part of economic cooperation in which
joint ventures were an important vehicle throughout the 1980s, but state
corporations and state banks emerged as key actors in the 1990s. Nowadays,
economic cooperation involves business collaboration in joint ventures in
which trade and trade finance, investment, and official assistance (grants
and concessional loans) are fused indistinguishably. This is particularly so
in the case of infrastructure projects in Southeast Asia. Chinas high-speed
railway diplomacy enables Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs) to gain
a foothold in overseas markets and test their technology and know-how in
poorer parts of Asia. In October 2014, for example, China and twenty other
countries announced the establishment of an Asia Infrastructure Investment
Bank (AIIB)seen as a challenge to the World Bank and the Asian Development Bankwith a registered capital of $100 billion, in which China holds
30 percent of the shares. Separately, China announced the setting up of a
US$40 billion Silk Road Fund. Although both funding sources are intended
to stimulate infrastructure construction across Asiawhat China calls the
One Belt, One Road strategymuch of the funding is likely to flow to
projects in Southeast Asia.
This development may bring the much-touted Pan-Asia Railway closer to
reality. In 201011, Chinese and Southeast Asian media reported on plans to
build a railway linking Kunming with Bangkok and Singapore via two lines,
one running through Burma and the other through Laos. The Lao government signed an agreement with China in April 2010 that set out the financing and the construction of a high-speed railway line (420 kilometers) from
Vientiane to Kunming. Under the original plan China was to fund 70percent
of the US$7.2 billion project. After the corruption scandal that led to the
arrest of Chinas minister of railways in February 2011, a groundbreaking
ceremony planned for April was canceled, and news of the Pan-Asia Railway
became scarce. But Lao officials kept issuing reassurances that the project

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was still on the agenda, and in December 2014, Thailands military junta
approved a US$23 billion deal for two high-speed rail links with Kunming
via Laos to be built by 2021.
Although some of the fast growth of Chinas ODI in Southeast Asia undeniably reflects the regions growing demand for energy and raw materials,
the picture is far more complex. While investment figures per sector are
difficult to verifyin part because of indirect investment via offshore and
Hong Kong companiesChinese investment in the region is increasingly
diverse, ranging from mining, oil, agriculture, and engineering procurement contracts (for roads, dams, railways, and the like) to manufacturing,
wholesale and retail trade, transportation, telecoms, tourism facilities, and
real estate. Only part of this investmentmostly the larger projects run
by SOEs that need government approvalshows up in either Chinese or
receiving-country statistics, and there are usually large gaps between the
two. More generally, the share of mining (including oil and gas) in Chinas
ODI is gradually decreasing, while the share of financial and nonfinancial
services is constantly progressing. For Zhao Hong (2013), the predominance
of nonfinancial services (including wholesale and retail, transportation and
storage, leasing and business services) is a direct reflection of Chinas export
boom and its efforts to expand market opportunities in Southeast Asia and
beyond. Although Burma, Laos, Cambodia, and Indonesia have attracted
Chinese investment in the primary sector, Cambodia and Vietnam have also
seen growing investment in labor-intensive industries (from garment and
electronics to motorcycle manufacturing) because of rising wages in China
and preferential access to the US and EU markets (Frost 2004).
In Malaysia and Thailand, where the per capita GDP is higher than China
and bilateral trade is booming, Chinese investment flows are comparatively
low. Nevertheless, Chinas rise has created greater trading opportunities
for these countries, especially in electronics (Booth 2011; Lee 2013, 2014).
China is far from being a dominant investor in Indonesia, but 2012 saw
renewed interest led by engineering and construction contracts (China
Global Investment Tracker). The Philippines and Vietnam, two countries
affected by territorial disputes with China, present very different cases in
terms of bilateral economic ties. By 2013, Vietnam, which exports twice as
much in value to China, has registered three times as much Chinese investment as the Philippines. Finally, Chinese investment in Brunei ranks last in
ASEAN, but a Chinese company has been given permission to build a US$4.3
billion refinery complex there, the largest ever foreign direct investment in
the sultanate (Lo 2013).

11

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Many of these megaprojects have given rise to charges of corruption,


increased militarization, human rights abuses, environmental destruction, and loss of local livelihoods. The issue of sovereignty is also often
raised because many projects involve the use of Chinese labor and turn
into Chinese enclaves (Nyri 2012; chapter 7, this volume). China is
increasingly facing protests at the sites of these projects and is accused by
local and international activists of becoming a neocolonial power. Some
interpretations have made historical parallels to the tribute system (Evans
2008). Renewed interest within China in exploring the theory and practice
associated with the tributary system and more generally with the traditional
notion of tianxiaall-under-heaven, a classical term for the world that is
now sometimes treated as a philosophical concept offering an alternative to
the Westphalian system of modern nation-stateshas captured the scholarly
imagination globally (Callahan 2008).
Although the chapters in this book do not directly deal with how notions
of sovereignty may or may not be changing under Chinese influence, they
do offer evidence that ChinaSoutheast Asia relations resembling earlier
historical periods tend to be generated by very modern and practical economic considerations rather than cultural appeal or historical determination. For instance, while Chinese Muslim circulations to Southeast Asia
or cross-border trade and migration involving Thailand, Burma, and Laos
continue practices that were interrupted between the 1950s and the 1990s,
the reemergence of such migration is a response to particular economic
incentives. Even in the borderlands of northern Laos and Burma, where the
role of Chinese concessionaires and strongmen can be most closely likened
to the tax farms of the precolonial and colonial eras, the logic of their resilience or reappearance conforms squarely to the economic and political logic
of nation-states joining the regional cash economy, in which the interests
of states in search of capital to enable infrastructural expansion meet those
of entrepreneurs in search of new markets and resources. And if highland
dwellers in these borderlands once again turn toward China as a source of
modernityhowever chimeric it may bethis has to do less with historical
memories than with the tantalizing closeness of ethnic kin with motorbikes
and television sets on the Chinese side of the border (Diana 2009; chapter
11, this volume).

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Beijing

Fuzhou

MYANMAR Kunming

Taipei

(BURMA)

LAOS

Vientiane

Bangkok

THAILAND

TAIWAN

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ANDAMAN SEA

Nanning Guangzhou
Lo Cai
Hong Kong
Boten Hanoi

SOUTH CHINA SEA

Manila

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Chiang
Mai

Hekou

PACIFIC OCEAN

CAMBODIA

Phnom Penh
Battambang
Kampot

PHILIPPINES

as

Kokang
Mandalay
Chiang
Naypyitaw Saen

Pr

Shanghai

es
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CHINA

VIETNAM

Kota Bharu

BRUNEI

MALAYSIA
SINGAPORE

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Kuala
Lumpur

1,000 km

Jakarta
Surabaya
Bali

Bandung

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Fieldwork site

Cross-border trade
and migration
Native region of the
Overseas Chinese
New Chinese migration flows
to Southeast Asia

Overseas Chinese population


(in % of total population)
1

1.2

Map I.2. Old and new Chinese migration flows

3.1

26

74.1

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Source : Danielle Tan, 2015

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A Diversity of Interactions

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Southeast Asian polities have a longer, more varied, and more sustained
history of relations with China than any other region. This history includes
tributary relationships between mainland and island Southeast Asian courts
and Chinese dynasties; ambiguous sovereignty over mainland Southeast
Asias highland polities that overlapped with lowland Burmese, Shan, and
Thai kingdoms; periods of direct sovereignty over parts of todays Vietnam
and Burma; and independent states within todays Chinese territory (Nanzhao or the Sultanate of Dali, for example) that had more ties to Southeast
Asia than to the Chinese empire. This is also a history of migrations and
circulations (Tagliacozzo and Chang 2011) of traders and goods, monks
and religious texts, rebels and refugees, laborers and sailors. In addition to
the presence of a large and diverseoverseas as well as overlandethnic
Chinese population over many centuries (Wang Gungwu 1991), currently
estimated at 32.7 million (Chang 2013), there have been centuries of migrations of Muslim traders; the coolie trade; the Chinese volunteers and advisers
supporting Communist insurgencies; the flight of ethnic Chinese to China
from persecution in Indonesia and Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s; and the
most recent wave of workers, students, trade migrants, and tourists, primarily to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Burma but also everywhere else.4
Zhuang Guotu (2010) estimates that 2.3 million to 2.7 million people
migrated from the Peoples Republic of China to Southeast Asia in the two
decades after 1990. More than one million took up residence in Burma,
350,000 to 400,000 in Thailand, 350,000 to 380,000 in Singapore, while
Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos each had 50,000 to
120,000 such new migrants. These figures should be viewed with caution, but
they give a sense of the scale of a phenomenon that remains understudied
(but see Wong 2013a) compared with the position of settled ethnic Chinese,
especially their role in the regional economy. The idea of a Chinese diaspora
capitalism in Southeast Asia has been used to explain the Asian economic
miracle (Redding 1990; Weidenbaum and Hughes 1996; see the critique by
Yao 2002). An older body of historical and anthropological studies on Chinese society in Southeast Asia (Skinner 1957; Purcell 1965; Freedman 1979),
often used as a proxy for society in China itself during the Mao years, was
continued through the 1980s (Cushman and Wang 1988; Suryadinata 1989)
and reinvigorated by the revival of Chinese cultural expression brought
about by political and economic reforms in the region (Edwards 2012; Sai
and Hoon 2013). Yet, although the growing importance of ties with China

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has played a role in that revival, few scholars outside of China have seriously
considered the effect of Chinas growing economic, migratory, and cultural
presence on the position of ethnic Chinese in the region.5
Central to this books contributors is attention paid to actual everyday
interactions in their diverse forms. This view informs the methodology,
ranging from ethnographic fieldwork to interviews and discourse analysis,
and the scope of each authors inquiry, from street markets to institutions
and business elites. Emerging corporate and individual relationships take a
multiplicity of forms, from transnational trade migration networks to crossborder marriages and new labor hierarchies shaped by an emerging regional
plantation economy. A ground-up and multidisciplinary approach is thus
needed to avoid macrosimplifications that tend to shade dynamics, processes, and individual agency for those who are affected by and participants
in that complex and fast-changing set of relationships. The contributors
to this volume come from a broad variety of fields and disciplinary backgrounds (including anthropology, history, sociology, geography, political
science, environmental science, cultural studies, and development studies)
but share a methodological approach that is based on grounded, often ethnographic research.
Considered Chinas natural backyard, Southeast Asia is a crucial observation field to describe the diversity of actors engaged in shaping the so-called
Chinese century as it has played (and plays) out on the ground. That diversity
is most noticeable in those Southeast Asian countries that are geographically closest to China and have the lowest barriers to flows of cash, goods,
and people (hence the heavy presence of cases from Indochina and Burma
included in this book). Yet the same approach can be fruitfully applied to
uncovering little-noticed aspects of Chinas relationship with maritime
Southeast Asia, whether one focuses on the brokerage of investment deals
in the Philippines (see chapter 6), Chinese Muslim traders in Malaysia (see
chapter 3), or the changing perceptions of China among the Indonesian
middle class (see chapter 10).

15

Identities in Flux
This book highlights the complexity of networks and actors involved in these
encounters, as well as their intended and unintended outcomes. One way to
make sense of the upheavals caused by the massive appearance of people,
money, and ideas from China in Southeast Asia is to focus on their impact on
identities, livelihoods, norms, and aspirations. At one level, new migratory
flows between China and Southeast Asia are causing a shift in the political

I n t roduc t ion

economy of Chinese ethnicity and in the meaning of Chinese identity in


the region. This volume shows, among other things, that ethnic identities
and linguistic competencies are used flexibly to benefit from the influx of
Chinese capital. The arrival in Southeast Asia of Chinese migrants with
social norms, ways of identification, habits of cultural consumption (and
increasingly also production) that are distinct from local Chinese traditions
has unsettled long-established, and often politically sensitive, negotiations
of ethnicity. In Cambodia (see chapter 1) and northern Burma, for example,
political reliance and economic dependence on China, combined with a
paucity of alternative economic opportunities and a tightly controlled public
sphere, has resulted in a strong reorientation of ethnic Chinese elites that has
impacted public cultural expression and facilitated the absorption of new
migrants into existing patronage networks.
In the Philippines, with a more affluent society, greater overseas mobility, and a continued cultural and political orientation toward the United
States, the ties created between Chinas state-owned enterprises and Filipino
Chinese business elites are generating friction with competing business
elites. This reality has resulted in a redrawing rather than a blurring of ethnic boundaries between non-Chinese, Chinese mestizos, and new Chinese
migrants (see chapter 6). In Malaysia (see chapter 3) and Indonesia, the
role of Chinese newcomers in economic and cultural mediation appears to
be marginal overall, but both the influx of Muslim Chinese (Hui) students
and traders and the reimagined historical link between China and Islam is
allowing local Chinese Muslims to reposition themselves as economically
and culturally more central to their societies. In rich Singapore, where the
dominance of ethnic Chinese and the friendly relations with the PRC might
lead us to expect a more welcoming attitude to newcomers from China,
migrants actually face a public rejection of their version of what it means
to be Chinese (see chapter 2), even as local Chinese associations, similarly
to Cambodia and Thailand, reposition themselves as vehicles of economic
mediation with the ancestral homeland (Liu 1998; 2012).
New interactions with China in Southeast Asia impact the politics of
other ethnic identities, too. As Chris Lyttleton shows in chapter 11, the
appearance of Chinese capital in highland Laos has further marginalized
lower-status, often ethnically marked populations such as swidden agriculturalists. Lyttleton and Aranya Siriphon (chapter 4) find evidence for the
reconstitution of cross-border ethnic identities, notably Dai, Tai Lue, and
Shan, but explain in their contributions that these are often put to use for
(sometimes exploitative) economic ends rather than partaking of the cultural

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17

revival that earlier scholarship predicted (e.g., Davis 2005). Conversely, historical claims by some groups, such as the Yao/Dao, to a Chinese ancestry
or a Sinophone past become vehicles to preferential incorporation into labor
hierarchies created by Chinese investors.

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Drawn into the Cash Economy


At another level, migrants and investors from China contribute to a reshaping of the regional economy, bringing with them fresh entrepreneurial
strategies, business practices, and labor structures. Despite all the hype that
surrounds Chinas development export, there is very little understanding of
how the arrival of Chinese capital, culture, and technology actually impacts
peoples lives and ways of thinking throughout Southeast Asia, and how
it is changing relationships among China, Chinese migrants, local ethnic
Chinese, and indigenous locals. The contributors to this volume focus
on the real-life impact of outward investment and development assistance
from China as well as on the impact of the imagined Chinese model on
Southeast Asian ideas of the future. Nowhere is this more apparent than in
the borderlandspart of the famed Zomia, the mountainous region that
stretches from Tibet to Vietnam that long resisted full incorporation by lowland kingdoms (van Schendel 2002). They have become an important arena
of economic activity whereby historical trade links and tensions have been
reactivated. Here, the continuity and complexity of cross-border interactions, their role in constituting ethnic identities, and the historical memory
of premodern overlapping sovereignties is more pertinent than elsewhere
in the region.
While Danielle Tan (chapter 7), Kevin Woods (chapter 8), and Aranya
(chapter 4) focus on the revival of cross-border tradewhether in consumer
goods, agricultural commodities, or drugsChinese investment is also triggering more complex regional migrations. As Lyttleton shows in chapter
11, this contributes to the displacement of hill populations into the lowland
cash economy; as is clear from Tans and Nyris chapters, to the short- and
middle-distance mobilization of Burmese and Cambodian labor. At the same
time, contributions by Lyttleton as well as Caroline Grillot and Juan Zhang
(chapter 5) draw our attention to the significance of the borderlands as an
increasingly commercialized spectacle for lowlandmainly Chinesetourists, one that extends stereotypical imaginations of ethnic minorities as backward, innocent, and sexualized further into Southeast Asia. Tourism, like
trade, becomes complicit in civilizing projects aimed at modernizing the
margins, with an appeal to those rural dwellers whose material worlds and

18

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mobilities expand. It also produces discontent at the brashness of Chinese


managers and the uncompromising nature of the cash economy.

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Shaping, Imposing, Borrowing Norms


For now, economic transactionsfrom scooters and vegetables sold at Chinese markets to the construction of hydropower plantsdominate Southeast
Asians firsthand experiences of Chinese engagement. While Nyri, Aranya,
Tan, and Woods show how the influx of petty traders, contract farmers, and
large construction companies has changed ordinary lives and social relations in the regions poorer countriesCambodia, northern Thailand, Laos,
and BurmaOliver Hensengerth (chapter 9) examines the environmental
norms Chinese hydropower construction adopts, and increasingly shapes,
in those countries.
Much speculation surrounds the attractiveness and applicability of the
China model around the world, particularly in poorer countries without
strong democratic institutions. While not discounting the abstract appeal of
fantasies associated with China, the evidence demonstrated throughout this
book illustrates the disparate nature of norms borrowed from, or imposed by,
Chinese actors in different settings. In Laos and Burma, as Tan and Woods
show, lowland states have used Chinese investors and the development
discourse and regulatory habits they brought with them to herd hard-toaccess borderlands more firmly under their control, while simultaneously
providing local elites with an entry onto the regional stage. These chapters
foreground the unexpected ability of weak states to advance their territorializing visionthough not necessarily their governing powerby borrowed
means. Other contributions focus more on the obverse of this process: the
rhizomatic ways in which capital and entrepreneurial practices from China,
often but not always mediated by ethnic Chinese brokers, fit into structures
of state patronage and space-making, thereby reshaping the regions politics.
Importantly, however, the volume also highlights the different patterns and
effects of intermediation that arise in different political, economic, and social
contexts.

Inspired by China (and the Other Way Round?)


Read together, the contributions in this book suggest that the appeal of
Chinas soft poweror the Chinese modelis strongest in contexts where
upward mobility is economically and politically limited and is not so much
determined by close historical ties to China through migration, trade, or

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ethnic composition. Herlijantos chapter explains how, for a diverse range of


Indonesian elites traditionally distant from or hostile to China, the Chinese
model has become a foil onto which they project their frustrations with the
political and economic shape of their country. In Malaysia, Singapore, and
the Philippines, whose migratory ties to China were closest during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, neither family ties nor the appeal of the
China model appear to play a decisive role, which challenges explanations
that point to the bamboo network of ethnic Chinese entrepreneurship to
explain these countries economic rapprochement with China.
In contrast, in poorer parts of the region, business with China is much
more suffused by emotions and desires, often contradictory ones, as Lyttleton demonstrates. Aranya as well as Grillot and Zhang highlight the fact
that migration from China is not unidirectionalan increasing number
of Vietnamese, Burmese, Lao, and Thai are joining rapidly growing foreign
populations in China (Pieke 2012). This migration is not simply a result of
economic calculation but rather emerges out of a web of desires, promises,
and emotional engagement. While Hew as well as Brenda S. A. Yeoh and
Weiqiang Lin (chapter 2) draw our attention to the increasing flow of Chinese students to Malaysia and Singapore in search of an English-language
education (see also Wong and Ooi 2013), a growing number of Southeast
Asian students are going to China to study (especially those from Vietnam,
Indonesia, and Thailand), some of them on a variety of Chinese government
scholarships, offered either as a form of development aid to poorer countries
or to young people of Chinese descent. By the end of 2012, there were more
than 110,000 Chinese students studying in ASEAN countries, while the
number of ASEAN students in China surpassed 60,000 (China Daily 2013).
Tourism, too, is an economy in which cash and desire are intensely entangled. Even as the casinos of northern Laos integrate the Golden Triangle into
regional itineraries of gambling tourism, Chinese tourists in Southeast Asia
are no longer limited to the organized shopping-and-gambling tours that
were so typical in the early 2000s. The appearance of budget airlines and the
expansion of visa-on-arrival arrangements have resulted in a spurt of young
Chinese backpackers and higher-end individual tourists across the region.
According to the ASEAN-China Centre, it is estimated that in the next three
to four years, the share of Chinese visitors in Southeast Asias inbound travel
will increase from the present 10 percent to 20 percent (Hong 2013). The
interactions of Chinese tourists with local populations are structured differently from those of traders and are no longer as strongly mediated by an
ethnic tourism industry as they were in the recent past. Instead, many young

19

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CHINA

Taipei

MYANMAR
LAOS

Hanoi

Vientiane

ANDAMAN SEA

CAMBODIA

Bangkok

Phnom Penh

PACIFIC OCEAN

PHILIPPINES

as

VIETNAM

THAILAND

MALAYSIA

BRUNEI

SINGAPORE

of

Kuala
Lumpur

Manila

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TAIWAN

(BURMA)

Naypyitaw

Jakarta

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1,000 km

Source : Hanban 2016

Map I.3. Confucius institutes and classrooms in Southeast Asia

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Chinese arrive with fantasies of authenticity and unspoiled tradition, even


as they may still hold strong views on the need for development. Personal
interactions on both sides are potentially a more important vehicle of soft
power than the Chinese governments Confucius Institutes that are now
spread throughout the region (see map I.3).
Paying attention to what happens on the ground in Southeast Asia does
not mean skirting the tensions and strategies that are central to realist
analyses of ChinaSoutheast Asia relations; on the contrary, it can lead to
a better understanding of the realities. For example, the suspension of the
Myitsone dam project in Kachin State, emblematic of the way Chinese companies are transforming Southeast Asia, by Burmas newly civilian president
Thein Sein precipitated a review of Chinas policies in that country and a
public-relations offensive. It is therefore important to untangle the complicated web of relations between the Chinese state enterprises involved in the
project; their private subcontractors; Chinese and Burmese workers; Kachin
insurgents; the Burmese army; ethnic Chinese middlemen from northern
Burma; and the local population. One of the central debates around Chinas
global involvement is whether it is a pragmatic international player that deals
with whatever type of regime is in power or whether it prefers to deal with
authoritarian regimesand may in fact even wish to export its authoritarian
resilience (Nathan 2003)either for reasons of efficiency in achieving its
objectives or because of the possibility of a joint ideological front.
Burma and Cambodia, among others, are test cases because Chinese
actors hold such large stakes in their politics and economies. Which of
them, and in what situations, prefer state patronage and which ones prefer
rule of law and transparency? If both options have their merits, how do they
reconcile them? If they have conflicting interests, who wins? Again, only
empirical studies that do justice to the diverse and context-specific strategies
and effects undertaken by a multiplicity of actors can answer these questions.
Not least, such research can shed light on how Chinas domestic policies
influence the divergent behaviors of Chinese enterprises abroad, as has been
done forChinese mines in Papua New Guinea (Smith 2013) anda Chinese
farm in Tanzania (Zhang, Xu, and Li 2012). For example, the actions of Chinese hydropower companies in Southeast Asia must be understood in the
context of domestic competition and increasingly restrictive environmental
guidelines within China (see Mertha 2008; chapter 9, this volume), rather
than merely as an outcome of a political mission combined with easy money.
This book challenges the assumption that analyzing the intentions of
Beijing, Jakarta, or Bangkok is sufficient to understanding the consequences

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Notes

The editors are grateful to Lorri Hagman for her encouragement and help in the making
of this volume.
Also sometimes called the China model, Beijing consensus refers to the political and
economic policies that are thought to have contributed to Chinas growth over the past
three decades, which is posed as an alternative to the neoliberal Washington consensus.
In recent years the China model has become shorthand for state-led economic development combined with a market economy and limits on individual freedoms.
See ASEAN-China Centres website, About Us, www.asean-china-center.org/english/
2014-03/06/c_133164797.htm (accessed 15 May 2014).
We use Burma and Myanmar interchangeably throughout this volume.
Regarding the 32.7 million figure mentioned (Chang 2013), Zhuang (2010) estimates
that the total overseas population was about forty-five million in 2008, distributed in
more than 180 countries, of which ten million are new Chinese migrants. The majority
of the Chinese overseas are in Asia, especially in Southeast Asia, at about 75 percent.
For exceptions, see Szanton Blanc 1997; Suryadinata 2006; and Liu 2012. For an example
of work by scholars in China, see Zhuang and Wang 2010.

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of Chinas newfound influence in Southeast Asia. Chinas growing weight


is making itself felteconomically, politically, and sociallyin and across
local, regional, and global scales, and rearranging, if not reshaping, the terms
by which people do politics in Southeast Asia and other regions. New
connections are forged not only bilaterally among government officials and
business families, but across the region. But crucially, these transnational
politico-business alliances thrive or fail on the basis of their entanglement
in the domestic affairs of the countries in which they operate. What emerges
from this collection of essays is that Chinas rise is not carefully orchestrated by a top-down strategy, and that realities on the ground are not always
in line with Chinas policy goals and the intentions of various Chinese actors.
Chinese transnational networks are not homogeneous, nor are they acting
as a single bloc to maximize Chinas national interests. Understanding the
diversity of actors and institutions tells us more about Chinas impact on the
ground than a mere analysis of military strategies or recourse to the concepts
of Chinese diaspora/capitalism, which have nourished the fear of the yellow
peril or served to celebrate a shared civilization. The same is true, of course,
elsewhere around the globe where Chinas footprint is felt.
We hope that this volume will serve as a useful reference for those who
study Chinese engagements in Africa, South America, and elsewhere. We
also intend it as a contribution to transcending the occasional territorial
parochialism of Southeast Asian studies.

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