Long before Portuguese sailors discovered Indonesia in the 16th century, Chinese traders were carrying cloves and nutmeg from the green islands to the Chinese mainland. By the time the first Dutch colonists arrived, the Chinese had built small sugar mills and had the rudimentary commerce of the archipelago well in hand. They stayed on and prospered under the Dutch, and sided with the Dutch against Indonesian independence. After the Dutch lost, the Chinese entrenched themselves better than ever in the first confused years of the new republic.

Today, the 2,500,000 Chinese who make up 3% of Indonesia's population are a...

Want the full story?

Subscribe Now


Learn more about the benefits of being a TIME subscriber

If you are already a subscriber sign up — registration is free!