After months of crisis, the patience of the Indonesian people is perilously near the limit. There is a real danger that as tension increases, the popular mood will spin out of control against the Chinese population who are the traditional targets when things go wrong. The factors which triggered the economic crisis have little to do with Chinese nationals, in particular the small shopkeepers who are in fear of their lives. But these people are a convenient target for public anger since they are seen to enjoy a disproportionate amount of the wealth, while making up only four per cent of the 200 million population. Reason is always the first casualty of irrational mob rule. Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets in Java, burning and wrecking stores. Scores of families have gone into hiding. The authorities appear to be doing what they can to keep order, but disturbing signs are emerging that higher powers may find the Chinese convenient as scapegoats to deflect attention from the depth of the country's woes which now threaten its food supplies. The brunt of the pain stemming from the International Monetary Fund rescue package will be borne by the ordinary people, and unless the Government takes steps to solve the food crisis, the worst is yet to come. Since last summer, food prices have risen by almost a quarter, the rupiah has been devalued by 73 per cent, a drought will cut the rice harvest for the second year in succession, and economists predict a three-figure percentage price rise for imported food staples. It is no consolation to the vast majority of low-wage working families facing hunger to be told their country may emerge with a better system of government and a sounder economy when the crisis is over. They are suffering now, and it is not surprising if they look for a focus for their anger. If the Government seeks to deflect the blame from itself, the danger is that it may point a finger at the Chinese community - already, the commander of military forces, Feisal Tanjung, has accused Chinese businessmen of not doing enough to help and says they should bring offshore money home and donate it to the Government. Such declarations are not calculated to restore calm in a country where racial tensions simmer beneath the surface. The Chinese were the main targets of the anti-communist riots in 1965, when half a million died. That tragic episode must not be allowed to repeat itself. If food becomes the key to social peace in Indonesia, further foreign aid is likely to be needed. Given the stakes, that is a price which the world should be ready to meet.