9.2. Late Coming Colonialism: The Dominance of Pidie Merchants and the Exclusion of Chinese Merchants in Sigli and Beureuneun Markets

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Sudiarto (Institute for Transformation Studies/Intrans)


It is unimaginably hard from the Javanese perspective to look at a city as centre of economic activity without ethnic Chinese existence. The Pecinan (Chinatowns) arose as colonial legacy of segregation policy, putting the Chinese people as trading minority in the plural society of Indonesia. In the postcolonial era, there were no significant structural changes, only replacing the European to the bureaucracy elites. Nonsimultaneous colonialism between Java and Sumatra created different situations, reflected in the weakness of Chinese merchant economy in the Pidie (Aceh) Regency markets.Until the middle of the 19th century, the Chinese people more interestingly migrated to the southern parts of Sumatra, like tin mining area in Bangka island and pepper plantations in Riau Islands. The Dutch truly exerted its power in Aceh in 1871, even effectively after the protracted war completed in 1931, only to be then defeated by Japanese occupation in 1942. The short period of relationship between Aceh and the Dutch colonialism is an obstacle to the Chinese merchants to play a dominant role in the economy. The absence of Chinese factor in the Acehnese society was filled by the Pidie merchants, having central role in the social and political dynamics  of Aceh. According to Reid (2011), Aceh and Indonesia have a contradictory history. Indonesian nationalism is mere an adjustment to the Dutch sphere of influence, otherwise the history of Aceh is a long struggle to avoid the absorption to the Dutch East Indies colonial rule. Pidie’s identification to the Acehnese and traditional belief of Islam is a background of intolerance tendency to the other identities. Beurenuen market is a centre of economic struggle in the Pidie Regency, where the Chinese merchants have not been given a space at all during the last 30 years.

Keywords: citizenship, Sumatra, Aceh, Pidie, Cina