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164Book Reviews PoliticalParticipation andEthnicMinorities: Chinese Overseas in MaUysia, Indonesia, andthe UnitedStates. ByAmyFreedman. NewYork: Roudedge, 2000. 224 pp. In Political Participation and Ethnic Minorities: Chinese Overseas in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the United States, Amy Freedman undertakes the task of determining the roots of political participation by ethnic Chinese outside of China. She examines three countries in detail and extrapolates her theory from these case studies. Hei primary goal is to untangle the conditions under which Chinese immigrants become politically active in their host country. In particular, she focuses her examination on the effects ofmobilization, communal organizations, the role ofethnic leadeis, and socio-economic status. Her basic hypothesis is that Chinese communities participate in politics through the mobilization efforts ofcommunity leaders when there are political, economic, and social incentives to do so. Past studies have focused more on the relationship between socio-economic status and political participation within limited geographical settings. Her comparative approach demonstrates the narrowness and limited nature ofthe socio-economic theories. In her study, the role ofsocio-economic status appears secondary, becoming significant only in certain political settings and only in conducive atmospheres. Freedman begins by discussing the various theories that have been posited for ethnic political participation. She then proceeds to a detailed look at each of the countries and highlights the relevant important historical events. Based on patterns that she obseives thiough the variation in conditions between the countiies, she then ptoceeds to put forth a theory about the relationship between the political and economic conditions of the time and the impact of these conditions on Chinese politicization. In Malaysia, the Chinese comprise about 29 per cent of the Malaysian population. Despite the high percentage, the Chinese are not as politically and economically important as they had been in the past even though their socio-economic status has not changed dramatically. Freedman's explanation is that the electoral incentives behind Chinese Book Reviews165 mobilization efforts have greatly declined. Although the support of Chinese business élites has been important in the past, the growth ofthe Malay middle and upper classes has altered the dynamics between business élites and political leaders. In particular, the political leaders are now less reliant on the Chinese business élite for political funding. Moreover, the electoral safety ofthe ruling coalition has also contributed to a lack of interest in the Chinese electoral community. These conditions have defined the political role of the Chinese in Malaysia. Socio-economic status has played some role but has not occupied the most prominent role. Many ofthese conditions differ in Indonesia but Freedman's basic theory holds. In particular, in Indonesia the Chinese are a scant 3 per cent of the population, though they remain an important economic component of the country. Some report that the Chinese, as the economic élite, control over 70 per cent of the country's economy. Accordingly, Soeharto favoured the Chinese business élite. The result was that a few business leaders were very influential politically while the rest ofthe communitywas marginalized and persecuted for its ties with Soeharto. Changes will certainly result from Soeharto's resignation and will likely again be a function of the motivation of the political élite. Again, political, economic, and social conditions have and will figure prominently into the type of political mobilization efforts directed towards the Chinese. In the United States, Freedman studies two separate communities, the Chinese in Monterey Park, California, and those in New York City. The Chinese in Monterey Park generally tend to have higher levels of socio-economic status and, moreover, comprise a large proportion of their specific geographic region. Indeed, the Chinese are a majority of the Monterey Park population. The New York City Chinese, on the other hand, are not as successful by socio-economic measures and are not as large a proportion ofNew York City. However, despite the open political system in the United States, the Chinese in America, whether in Monterey Park or New York City, participate at fairly low rates. Here again, Freedman comes back to her mobilization and institutional structure argument. That is, when politicians have few incentives to 166Book Reviews court the Chinese vote, the group remains unmobilized and apathetic in political affairs. In NewYork, the Chinese group...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1793-2858
Print ISSN
0217-9520
Pages
pp. 164-167
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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