Time: Mari Pangestu is a symbol of a new Indonesia. The economist turned technocrat, who now serves as Indonesia’s Minister of Tourism and creative economy, was born into a country rife with anti-Chinese sentiment. Under the strongman Suharto, Chinese-Indonesians like her were effectively banned from publicly celebrating their holidays and discouraged from studying the Chinese language. In May 1998, amid a wave of unrest that would ultimately toppled President Suharto, violent anti-Chinese riots swept the capital, Jakarta, and other cities. “If you had asked me in 1998, or before 1998, whether I could see myself in government, I’d say, no,” says Pangestu. But in the years since “everything changed so much.”
Today, May 21, 2013, marks 15 years since President Suharto stepped down, ending 32 years of authoritarian rule and ushering in Indonesia’s era of reform, or reformasi. Southeast Asia’s most populous country is no longer wrecked by economic crisis or hobbled by austerity measures. Indeed, the country’s economy has been growing steadily, at an average rate of 5.7% over the past 10 years.