A ‘beautiful friendship’ in Suharto’s Indonesia

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December 13, 2017

Liem Sioe Liong and Suharto had a classic patron-client relationship – the payback was funds channelled the President’s way . . .

IN Julius Caesar, Shakespeare wrote: “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.”
Such was the luck of Chinese business entrepreneur Liem Sioe Liong, who landed in Java in 1938 as a dirt-poor migrant from Fujian province, in China.
He not only caught the tide, he became the chief financier and cukong (crony) of President Suharto.
In post-Sukarno Indonesia, Liem surfed on a tsunami of wealth and political power, and soon became recognised as Southeast Asia’s wealthiest tycoon.
Suharto hungered for power, Liem for money. Together, “they made a potent team that kept them on top in Indonesian politics and business respectively for three decades”.
Liem’s gutter-to-glitter journey is splendidly captured in Liem Sioe Liong’s Salim Group  by Richard Borsuk and Nancy Ching [ISEAS Publishing], a frank and revealing business biography which explores Liem’s life and times with painstaking care and in exhaustive detail (573 pages).
It also doubles as a primer on how to do – or not to do – business in Indonesia.