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Nation and community are important imaginations through which human beings try to understand and organise themselves (Black, 1993; Wang, 1992). It is commonly believed that the concept of nationality is related to “nation” while the concept of citizenship is connected to “state” (Gans, 2017: 108-109; Mubah and Anabarja, 2011: 66), and nationality is a more cultural identity while citizenship is conceptualised more as a “rights and duties” concept or political identity (Jamieson, 2002: 516; Mubah and Anabarja, 2011: 66). In international law and international politics, nations and states are commonly conceived of as a single entity — “nation-states” — as the international system is composed of nation-states and the distinction between cultural and political identity is vague and not necessarily useful on most occasions. For example, nationality was defined in the 1929 Harvard Research in International Law as “the status of a natural person who is attached to a state by the tie of allegiance”, where “state” rather than “nation” was used to define “nationality” (Harvard Law School, 1929). This paper treats nationality and citizenship as interchangeable unless specified otherwise.
Dual nationality had long been unpopular for States. For example, States commonly raise the issue of “embarrassment in diplomatic relations” and “the threat of divided allegiance in wartime” to disallow dual nationality (Guo, 2018: 131; Irving, 2013). The international community has adopted treaties to reduce dual nationality and deal with associated issues such as military obligations…


‪The paper examines the connection between dual nationality and national belonging through a case study of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia from 1949 to 1960s. About 3 million Chinese in Indonesia were dual nationals in 1949 when the People’s Republic of China was established, holding both Chinese and Indonesian nationalities. Under a treaty signed in 1955 by China and Indonesia on dual nationality, the Chinese with dual nationality were forced to choose a single nationality. The paper traces the history of the nationality selection of those Chinese, including the broader legal and social contexts, to establish a foundation for understanding their sense of national belonging. The paper provides insightful historical knowledge which can be used to further the current debate on whether the ‪‪1980 Chinese Nationality Law‪‪ should be revised to permit overseas Chinese to keep their Chinese nationality, as they could before 1949. The potential change to Chinese nationality law may impact the nationality of Chinese diasporas worldwide.‪

  • Indonesia
  • national belonging
  • dual nationality
  • Chinese diaspora
  • Chinese nationality law
Sanzhuan Guo
Senior Lecturer (Specialty: International law, citizenship and migration, human rights), Law and Commerce Building, Room 2.07, College of Business, Government and Law, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001, Australia;; sanzhuan.guo[at]
Tim McFarland
Partner lawyer and Honorary Research Fellow with The University of Queensland (Specialty: International humanitarian law, technology and law, autonomous weapons, migration), McFarland’s Solicitors, 8B Evans Avenue, Mitcham, SA 5062, Australia;; tim[at]
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