Beijing’s calls to ‘sons and daughters’
Australia is home to a large, ethnic Chinese diaspora of more than 1.2 million.
Neighbouring South-East Asia is home to the largest population of so-called overseas Chinese in the world.
Nevertheless, across the region, ethnic Chinese have often been met with suspicion and xenophobia, in some instances, extreme violence.
“Antipathy towards China almost always has a negative impact on ethnic Chinese communities,” Charlotte Setijadi, a specialist on Chinese diaspora in South-East Asia at Singapore Management University, told the ABC.
The coronavirus pandemic’s origins in Wuhan have fuelled anti-Chinese sentiment, she said.
“The threat of the Chinese during COVID-19 was no longer ideological, political or economic, but it was biological.”
And under President Xi Jinping, China has called upon what it sees as “sons and daughters” abroad to help realise the “Chinese dream” of national rejuvenation.
Efforts to court political and economic support of ethnic Chinese in the region, Strangio said, “is reawakening those old fears of dual-loyalties”.
“China still thinks they’re the motherland … I think that’s dangerous,” said Kevin Ng of Suara Peranakan, a Chinese Indonesian collective against racism.
“The Chinese diaspora — Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian Chinese — they have their own culture.”
For Chinese Indonesians, who were partly targeted by mass killings in 1965 and by violent riots in 1998 across Indonesia, Beijing’s rhetoric poses the threat of reigniting anti-Chinese hatred, Mr Ng said.
“Those who orient themselves towards China, they don’t just do it for emotional reasons … they do it because of potential commercial gains,” Dr Setijadi said.
“In the Indonesian case, a lot of the Chinese tycoons end up looking like they’re super close to China.
“But that’s only a very, very small percentage of overseas Chinese.”