PRC Soft Power and Chinese Indonesian Arts: Reports from the Ends of the Spectrum


About the Webinar

While assertions of Chinese cultural nationalism have the potential to affect Chinese populations globally, it is nowhere truer than in Indonesia, where the recent history of the ethnic Chinese has been marked by ethnic tensions and recurrences of persecution, but also in some cases by disproportionate prominence and wealth. How local Chinese communities perform (or avoid performing) ethnic identity is keyed to these geopolitical dynamics. Nowhere else is the phenomenon of Chinese soft power projects so likely to affect interethnic dynamics at a time when China’s current global exercise of soft power has the potential to again reshape Sino-Southeast Asian cultural forms and social expression.

Two case studies are adduced here—one from contemporary puppetry practice of Chinese-Indonesian origin, and another of Sinophone Indonesian literature. They are presented to illustrate separate poles of potential Chinese Indonesian activity: one in which an originally Chinese cultural product is absorbed into Indonesian culture with leaving only traces, and one in which the bond between ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and political identity is held to be valid. This presentation seeks to challenge binary definitions and accounts of Chinese-Indonesian communities, insisting that the effect of PRC soft power is bound to occur on a spectrum, with knowledge of Chinese language a key determinant.

About the Speaker

Dr Josh Stenberg is a senior lecturer in Chinese Studies at the University of Sydney. He completed his PhD at Nanjing University in 2015 and has published the monograph Minority Stages: Sino-Indonesian Performance and Public Display (2019) and Liyuanxi: Chinese ‘Pear Garden’ Theatre (2022), as well as the edited volumes Kunqu Masters on Chinese Theatrical Performance (2022). In addition to his work on Chinese theatre and literature, he has translated or edited several volumes of contemporary Chinese literature.

About the Discussant

Prof Leo Suryadinata is currently a Visiting Senior Fellow, ISEAS – Yusof Ishak Institute (Singapore). He served as Director of the Chinese Heritage Centre (Singapore, 2006-2013, NTU) and was a Professor in the Department of Political Science, National University of Singapore (NUS). He was also President of the International Society for the Study of Chinese Overseas (ISSCO, 2007-2013). He has published extensively on ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia and China-ASEAN relations. His latest book is The Rise of China and the Chinese Overseas (2017), and Rising China and New Chinese Migrants in Southeast Asia (co-editor and contributor).


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

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May 31 2023


10:00 am - 11:30 am