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As early as the 1st century the population was estimated at 2 million people in this rich tropical environment. The population of Indonesia in 1900 was 38 million inhabitants. By 1950 it had reached 77 million. The latest count at the end of 1995 showed it had 195.3 million inhabitants. Major ethnic groups include Javanese, Sundanese, Madurese and Malay. Numerous smaller groups also inhabit the islands. Religious affiliation consists of 87% Muslims, 6.5% Protestant Christians, 3% Catholic Christians, 2% Hindus, 1% Buddhists and 0.5% others.
The Chinese are Indonesia's most important ethnic minority and largest alien group. Although they comprise only about 2 percent (5 million) of Indonesia's total population, the Chinese control about 75 percent of the country's private domestic capital. Contacts were recorded between China and Western Java as early as the 5th century, and Chinese Muslims played a role in converting Java to the Muslim religion in the 15th century.
Resented and envied, the Chinese have been traditionally ostracized from the mainstream of Indonesian society, and periodic purges have been perpetrated against them. Indonesia and Korea are the only countries in Asia that base nationality entirely on paternal lineage.