Washington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & SecurityWashington Institute For Defence & Security
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The diplomatic approach of Indonesia in handling the US-China standoff

China and Indonesia, the fourth most populous country in the world and the one with the greatest economy in Southeast Asia, haven’t always been close. Diplomatic relations were only restored in 1990 after Jakarta accused Beijing of sponsoring a purported Communist coup attempt in the 1960s. 

Indonesia’s diplomatic approach and Its neutral position

The US is expected to build additional military and security connections with the governments in the area, while China gains from their economic dependence, meaning that the competition between these two countries is likely to remain unchanged. The former will most likely stick to its true course and enforce its regulations with more vigor. However, it is not anticipated that China will initiate a war in the near or medium future, even if Beijing’s stance toward Taipei and the situation in Ukraine are comparable. In the event that the confrontation intensifies, the US would most likely defend Taiwan militarily and economically, but the neighboring governments will be too afraid of China’s economic might to take any meaningful action against it.

Economic implication of Indonesia’s position

Li Peng, the former premier of China, stated that it was time to leave “bygones be bygones” in an attempt to mend the relationship. Let us go back to September of last year. Li Qiang, the current premier, was enjoying a joyride on Indonesia’s brand-new high-speed train, which was constructed by China, to commemorate the most recent milestone in the growing economic alliance. China is currently Indonesia’s largest investor, having invested over $7 billion in the neighboring country in only the previous year. 

A large portion of the money is going toward expanding Indonesia’s ability to process commodities so it can export goods other than raw materials. China is currently Indonesia’s main trading partner. However, Jakarta has also been repairing its security ties with the US, China’s geostrategic adversary, and has most recently upgraded those ties to a “comprehensive strategic partnership.” Prabowo Subianto, the incoming president of Indonesia, believes that positive relations with China and the US are crucial, and that Indonesia’s previous history serves as a model.

US China relations impact on Indonesia’s security

As the current minister of defense, Prabowo has been instrumental in guaranteeing Indonesia’s strategic independence. He was in charge of an agreement to buy twenty-six US F-15EX fighter fighters a few weeks before the Chinese premier’s arrival. In response to Chinese patrols in the disputed South China Sea, Indonesia and the US have also increased military exercises and are investigating possible maritime cooperation. Prabowo, who emerged victorious in a three-way presidential contest earlier this year with about 60% of the vote, will assume office in October and inherit a $1 trillion economy that has been rapidly expanding in the global resource supply chain. He has promised to expand on the business-friendly policies of outgoing President Joko Widodo, who increased Chinese foreign investment more than eight times during his ten years in government.

Indonesia’s role in regional stability

Prabowo must take into account internal factors in light of Indonesia’s strengthening connections to China. The country is home to a sizable ethnic Chinese minority, who were the focus of violence in the 1960s. Anti-Chinese riots occurred in 1998, the same year that Suharto was overthrown. Although Prabowo has been accused of starting the riots, he has always refuted this. 

While Chinese President Xi Jinping touts his economic ideas as superior to Western capitalism and more appropriate for developing countries, Prabowo has stressed that Indonesia shouldn’t just mimic other people’s policies.Regarding Russia’s two-year war on Ukraine, Indonesia has once again chosen a moderate stance: it has supported an armistice that would give the Kremlin access to illegally occupied Ukrainian territory while also voting in favor of China-style criticism of Moscow for its aggression, which has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of Ukrainians. 


In conclusion, The percentage of Indonesians who believed that China’s rise was beneficial to their country has decreased from 54% in 2011 to just 43%. Of the 3,000 respondents, over half were between the ages of 17 and 65 and stated they thought China wanted to rule the area. The Chinese diaspora, which makes up about 3% of the population but has a long history and significant economic influence, plays a significant role in relations. Since the Indonesia-China Strategic Partnership was signed, China has grown to be Indonesia’s largest commercial partner, hence this group has been eager to take advantage of trade prospects with China.


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