P49. Politics and Democracy in South and Southeast Asia

Session: Session 7, 3:45-5:15 pm, Saturday 9/30

Category: Individual Papers

Location: Honors

Chair: Shuyuan Shen (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign)

Paper Presenters: Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell (Johns Hopkins University), Yujeong Yang (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Rahnuma Siddika (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Dan McCoy (Northern Illinois University)

Prejudice and protest: the long-term effects of ethnic discrimination on anti-China protest in Indonesia

Speaker: Sanghoon Kim-Leffingwell
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Johns Hopkins University

Speaker: Yujeong Yang
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Abstract: The rise of China has attracted hopes and fears across its economic partners, but the popular responses to China’s economic expansion have accompanied a rise in anti-China sentiment among citizens. This study investigates how existing ethnic conflicts may further stimulate such anti-China sentiments in response to China’s economic expansion. We explore these dynamics by looking at the subnational variation in anti-China protests in a multi-ethnic democracy, Indonesia. The country has a dismal history of discrimination against ethnic Chinese under former dictator Suharto, and the ethnic Chinese minority group has been scapegoated in times of economic or political crises. Ethnic Chinese Indonesians have long been targeted for their (perceived) economic dominance and loyalty towards China. Local political elites often take advantage of such ethnic prejudice for their political gains. Given this, we contend that Chinese investment leads to anti-China protests more extensively in Indonesian localities where ethnic discrimination against Chinese Indonesian is more prevalent and salient.  We further study the long-term authoritarian origins of such anti-Chinese sentiment by comparing anti-Chinese sentiment across the regions that experienced ethnic discrimination against Chinese Indonesians under dictatorship. The study shows the long-term effects of domestic anti-Chinese ethnic discrimination on public opinion towards the largest economic partner, China.

Moving Towards Authoritarianism: Estimating Its Impact on Self-Censorship in Bangladesh

Speaker: Rahnuma Siddika
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: This study examines the prevalence and impact of political self-censorship in the context of democratic backsliding in Bangladesh where the current regime has been in power for over a decade. Moreover, the regime has been known to imprison opposition leaders and supporters, carry out forced disappearances and exercise intense surveillance over social media and other information channels, creating a climate of fear among citizens. In authoritarian regimes, the accuracy of public opinion surveys may be compromised due to political sensitivity bias, and measuring its impact is challenging. Citizens may withhold or falsify their opinions out of fear of judgment or punishment. Using data from the World Values Survey, the study compares nonresponse rates to politically sensitive questions before and after Bangladesh’s transition towards authoritarianism. This study also provides an improved measure of political self-censorship using the nonresponse rates in politically sensitive and non-sensitive survey items. The study finds evidence of increased self-censorship among respondents in surveys conducted after the transition. The findings suggest that researchers should be aware of the limitations of survey data in repressive contexts and the need for improved measures of political self-censorship. The study also sheds light on the nature and extent of dissent in Bangladesh under authoritarian rule, contributing to theoretical discussions of the relationship between political repression and public opinion.

‘Stability-in-Depth’: A Retrospect of the Cold War Lexicon of the New Order

Speaker: Dan McCoy
Role: Paper Presenter
Institution/Affiliation: Northern Illinois University
Abstract: Upon its 1949 independence, amid decolonization and tensions surrounding East and West, Indonesia fervently self-defined its newly independent position in uproarious Southeast Asia. ‘Guided Democracy’ (1959-1966) under President Sukarno formulated the initial set of homegrown political, defense, and strategic concepts to steer Indonesia on the regional stage, albeit with mixed success. In turn, President Suharto’s ‘New Order’ (1966-1998) empowered the Indonesian National Armed Forces to dually oversee Indonesia’s internal affairs and national defense (dwifungsi). The ‘New Order’ further added doctrines and concepts to the national lexicon imbued with notions of kebangsaan (nationalism) to explicate, justify, and guide Indonesia’s evolving impression in Southeast Asian affairs. Suharto’s hand in consolidating the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1967 allowed Indonesia, as a ‘first among equals,’ a regional platform to maturate its kebangsaan and exude a foreign policy of bebas-aktif (‘free and active’). How did Indonesian public intellectuals, academics, and government officials illuminate among themselves, and their ASEAN partners, these doctrines and concepts? What phraseology and rhetoric did Indonesian print media emphasize to give its readership confidence in Indonesia’s pursuit of ‘national resilience’ alongside ‘regional resilience?’ How did the ‘New Order’ envision the fruition of its concepts, doctrines, and policies through multi-track diplomacy during the Cold War when Southeast Asia experienced successive waves of Great Power competition? This presentation proposes to examine the diplomacy, defense, and regionalism terminology prevalent in the New Order’s Cold War lexicon and how the ‘New Order’ substantiated that terminology in its national, regional, diplomatic, and defense outlook.