Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia

Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia

How People, Money, and Ideas from China Are Changing a Region

University of Washington Press, December 2016

Volume edited by PÁL NYÍRI & DANIELLE TAN

Foreword by WANG GUNGWU

This is the first book to focus explicitly on how China’s rise as a major economic and political actor has affected societies in Southeast Asia. It examines how Chinese investors, workers, tourists, bureaucrats, longtime residents, and adventurers interact throughout Southeast Asia. The contributors use case studies to show the scale of Chinese influence in the region and the ways in which various countries mitigate their unequal relationship with China by negotiating asymmetry, circumventing hegemony, and embracing, resisting, or manipulating the terms dictated by Chinese capital.

PÁL NYÍRI is professor of global history from an anthropological perspective at Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam. He is the author of Scenic Spots: Chinese Tourism, the State, and Cultural Authority; coauthor of Seeing Culture Everywhere: From Genocide to Consumer Habits; and coeditor of Chinese Encounters in Southeast Asia: How People, Money, and Ideas from China Are Changing a RegionDANIELLE TAN is research associate at the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC, Bangkok). The contributors are Aranya Siriphon, Caroline Grillot, Caroline S. Hau, Oliver Hensengerth, Johanes Herlijanto, Hew Wai Weng, Weiqiang Lin, Chris Lyttleton, Kevin Woods, Brenda S. A. Yeoh, and Juan Zhang.

« [These case studies] both demonstrate the scale of Chinese influence in the region as a whole and point out clearly that there is no such single thing as ‘Chinese influence,’ but rather disparate influences of different kinds of Chinese people and investors in a dynamic region. »
Stevan Harrell, series editor, Studies on Ethnic Groups in China

« This edition sheds new light on how specific vectors of change are linking millions of Chinese individuals with their neighbors in Southeast Asia, creating opportunities, frictions, and resistance, while concurrently reshaping the region. Through ethnographically rich case studies, we gain important insights into the everyday connections, complex social relationships, and composite livelihoods that intertwine China and its neighbors. »
Sarah Turner, coauthor of Frontier Livelihoods: Hmong in the Sino-Vietnamese Borderlands

« This important collection provides tantalizing accounts of how traders, entrepreneurs, workers, teachers, students, and tourists from the PRC are opening up borderlands and variously embedding themselves into nations to the south. The accelerating outflow of PRC people has made ‘Chinese’ identities-richly ambiguous and multivalent-a critical form of transnational social capital in the midst of local resistances, skepticism, and accommodation in Southeast Asia. »
Aihwa Ong, author of Fungible Life: Experiment in the Asian City of Life


Foreword by Wang Gungwu
List of Abbreviations

Introduction: China’s “Rise” in Southeast Asia from a Bottom-Up Perspective

Pál Nyíri and Danielle Tan


1. Investors, Managers, Brokers, and Culture Workers: How Migrants from China Are Changing the Meaning of Chineseness in Cambodia

Pál Nyíri

2. Multiplying Diversities: How “New” Chinese Mobilities Are Changing Singapore

Brenda S.A. Yeoh and Weiqiang Lin

3. Translocal Pious Entrepreneurialism: Hui Business and Religious Activities in Malaysia and Indonesia

Hew Wai Weng


4. Border Guanxi: Xinyimin and Transborder Trade in Northern Thailand

Aranya Siriphon

5. Ambivalent Encounters: Business and the Sex Markets at the China-Vietnam Borderland

Caroline Grillot and Juan Zhang


6. Entangling Alliances: Elite Cooperation and Competition in the Philippines and China

Caroline S. Hau

7. Chinese Enclaves in the Golden Triangle Borderlands: An Alternative Account of State Formation in Laos

Danielle Tan

8. “China in Burma”: A Multiscalar Political Economy Analysis

Kevin Woods

9. Water Governance in the Mekong Basin: Scalar Trade-off, Transnational Norms, and Chinese Hydropower Investment

Oliver Hensengerth


10. “Search for Knowledge as Far as China!” Indonesian Responses to the Rise of China

Johanes Herlijanto

11. Stimulating Circuits: Chinese Desires and Transnational Affective Economies in Southeast Asia

Chris Lyttleton



Maps & Illustrations