Seminar: Remembering the Cold War: Indonesian Communist Exiles and China



Following forty years of censorship, the 1965 coup (also known as the Thirtieth of September Movement) in Indonesia and the ensuing mass killings have only received international attention in recent years, especially through the widely acclaimed documentaries “The Act of Killing”.  There has been a lot of uncertainty around the role of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in Indonesian politics immediately before and during the coup.

This seminar will first clarify the role of the Chinese government in Indonesia between 1964 and 1966 by a close reading of PRC archival materials. It will be argued that, although deeply invested in Indonesian politics, Beijing’s actual influence over the Indonesian Communist Party and the turn of events in Indonesia in 1965 was far more limited than what the Suharto regime and some English language works have previously claimed.  An investigation on the Indonesian communist exiles who used to live in China will be done by reconstructing some of the exiles’ experiences of participating in the Cultural Revolution in China, tracing some of the long journeys they took from Moscow to Beijing and then to Western Europe, and tapping into their evolving spiritual world that pivoted on the fluctuating tides of the international communist movement. Another focus of this talk is the tension between the state’s efforts to dominate the writing of history and individual attempts to steer the direction of public discourse, as well as individuals’ inner struggles to reconcile life decisions made in the past and the new socio-political environment they are situated in at the present.


Taomo Zhou is a Post-doctoral Fellow at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Nanyang Technological University. Taomo received her Ph.D. from Cornell University, where she specialised in modern Chinese as well as modern Southeast Asian history. She has long-term interest in the nexus between international relations, migration, and political movements. Before entering Cornell, she studied at Peking University (B.A.), Waseda University (B.A.) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (M.Sc. with Distinction). Taomo has published two peer-reviewed journal articles on the interactions between China and Indonesia during the Cold War period: “Ambivalent Alliance: Chinese Policy towards Indonesia, 1960-1965” (in The China Quarterly) and “China and the Thirtieth of September Movement” (in Indonesia).

For registration, please fill in this form and email to by 22 February 2016.



Feb 23 2016


10:00 am - 11:30 am


ISEAS Seminar Room 2