Chinese Muslims’ Transnationalism and Development in Southeast Asia: Transnational Business Network and Post-Chineseness

A/Prof Yun Zhang2

2Jinan University, Guangzhou, China

The Southeast Asia-based Chinese Muslims constitute a special transnational population group, with an imagined homeland characterized by the interaction of nation-state and non-territorial ethnicity and religion. While Chinese Muslims share common Islamic identity with the local people, they maintain transnational linkages with China, other Chinese diasporic groups, and non-territorial religious groups, especially through business networks, to maximize their development opportunities. Drawing on empirical studies in Surabaya and Kuala Lumpur, this paper examines the transnationalism and development embodied by Southeast Asia-based Chinese Muslims in a post-colonialism context. It explicitly addresses how Chinese Muslims produce and maintain transnational linkages, with their home country – China – such as via the Association of Chinese Entrepreneurs, and with their non-territorial religious ‘homeland’ such as via Islamic chambers of commerce and al-Bank al-Islami. This study finds that Chinese Muslims who hold multiple identities – citizens of the Southeast Asian countries overlapped with transnational identity towards China and Muslim religion – have developed unique development-oriented transnationalism. This not only facilitates their integration to the local society but also significantly influences economic and socio-cultural structures in Southeast Asia through diffusing the “post-Chineseness” that inherits clan concept, life values and working spirits from Chinese tradition.


Yun Zhang holds a PhD in Political Science. He is an Associate Professor in School of International Studies (Academy of Overseas Chinese Studies) at Jinan University and an editorial board member of Journal of Southeast Asian Studies. His research includes Southeast Asia studies, international society theory and overseas Chinese studies.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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