Journal of Chinese Overseas Studies
Online ISSN : 2758-9390
Print ISSN : 1880-5582
Hakka Merchants in the Dutch East Indies:
Business Development in Batavia, and Intra-Asian Networks in the Early 20th Century
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2021 Volume 18 Pages 7-27


This study focused on Hakka merchants in Batavia (now Jakarta) in the Dutch East Indies, with the aim of examining their position within Chinese society, which has been overlooked in previous studies of Indonesian Chinese history. In addition, this study explored the characteristics of their economic activities across colonial territories and East Asia, including China and Japan. At the beginning of the 20th century, several Hakka merchants who were appointed Chinese officers by the colonial government played a major role in the Chinese nationalist movement. Their social status was based on the success of the trading business since the mid-19th century, and with the development of liberal economics and intra-Asian trade, they became wealthy merchants who established large trading houses in the Chinese quarter. They mainly handled inexpensive daily goods from China and Japan, and formed a distribution network that involved import, wholesaling, and retailing, and incorporated newcomers from their area in China. Their network predated the arrival of Japanese retailers and brought light industrial goods from East Asia to the local market in place of expensive European goods. In terms of political orientation, they were strong supporters of the Republic of China and Kuomintang. These Hakka leaders were clearly key actors in the mobilization of people, goods, money, and information that increasingly circulated throughout Asia. The influence of the Hakka Chinese merchants on Indonesian society was not insignificant, as they were active at a time when the Dutch East Indies were being integrated into the international economy.

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