Time for stronger Sino-Indonesian relations

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Time for stronger Sino-Indonesian relations

By Crystal Wong and Kacee Ting Wong

In the past few years, vicious geopolitical headwinds have been brought into play against China. In response to the perceived threat posed by the peaceful rise of China, the United States has practiced a comprehensive form of containment that is in many respects even tougher than its confrontational approach to the former Soviet Union during the Cold War.

One tactic has been to form Cold War-style blocs to isolate and contain China. But most of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are trying to avoid taking sides in the rivalry between China and the US. In particular, Indonesia wants to have a free hand to shape its foreign policies according to its own strategic calculations.

We will now examine the impact of Indonesia’s independent and active policy (bebas aktif) on its major foreign relations, which is likely to offer a greater window of opportunity for further improvements to Sino-Indonesian political relations.

Indonesia established diplomatic relations with China in 1950. During the heyday of the Sukarno administration, China and Indonesia enjoyed close relations. Partly because of the perceived close ties between China and the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI) and partly because of the alleged loyalty problem with ethnic Chinese in Indonesia, Sino-Indonesian relations deteriorated in the mid-1960s. As a result of the “September 30 Movement” of 1965 and the purge of the PKI, Sino-Indonesian diplomatic relations were suspended in 1967. Following the downfall of Sukarno, General Suharto introduced discriminatory policies toward ethnic Chinese, adding further complexities to Sino-Indonesian relations.

Nevertheless, both countries resumed diplomatic relations in 1990. Anti-Chinese riots erupted in Indonesia in May 1998 after the outbreak of the Asian financial crisis. Some human rights groups claimed that at least 168 Chinese-Indonesian women were raped during the disturbances (Far Eastern Economic Review, Asia 1999 Yearbook (HK: Review Publishing Co Ltd, 1999), p125). The then-Chinese foreign minister, Tang Jiaxuan, made a direct appeal to the Indonesian government, calling for the protection of Indonesian-Chinese communities. After Abdurrahman Wahid came to power in October 1999, he tried to improve the situation of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Since Joko Widodo became president in 2014, Indonesia has relied on economic diplomacy to enhance its national interests.

Under President Widodo, Sino-Indonesian economic relations have witnessed a transition away from mere reliance on two-way trade. Bilateral investment between China and Indonesia has been proactively boosted by President Widodo and President Xi Jinping, leading to a surge in investment under China’s Belt and Road Initiative. Inbound investment from China, including Hong Kong, in 2019-20, ranked second after Singapore. Chinese investments in Indonesia have concentrated in the mining and energy sectors.

Indonesia’s infrastructure is one area of focus for Chinese investors. The biggest Chinese investment project is the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway. It’s also worth noting that Indonesia is shaping up to be a key part of the electric vehicle supply chain. Chinese electric vehicle maker Hozon New Energy Automobile said it would step up plans to develop a right-hand-drive electric vehicle with its Indonesian partner. With regards to the digital economy, Tencent has a data center in Indonesia to provide cloud computing services and industrial digital solutions. Huawei is also contributing to Indonesia’s digital infrastructure construction. CK Hutchison (HK) operates Indonesia’s largest container port at Jakarta through Hutchison Ports.

Through the Global Development Initiative (GDI), China has also indicated greater readiness to be a responsible major power that provides global public goods. Besides, the GDI’s eight focus areas are aligned with the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and Indonesian development programs. To sum up, both countries seem to welcome the prospect of closer economic ties and the economic path ahead is strewn with golden opportunities.

We must understand not just the causes of the close economic ties between China and Indonesia but also how these ties are creating mutual incentives for promoting better political relations. Economists have traditionally been skeptical about economic diplomacy but, in some cases, it is the only way of promoting cooperation between countries divided by politics.

Indonesia’s strategic choice to improve its relationship with China can be viewed as part of its transition into the “balance of power” strategy. The pursuit of strategic autonomy and bebas aktif enables Indonesia to keep a safe distance from Sino-US rivalry. Though Jakarta still regards the US as a reliable security partner, it does not want to take sides in the Sino-US rivalry. President Widodo has repeatedly said that ASEAN cannot be any party’s proxy. In the eyes of Chinese strategists, other countries’ search for sovereignty and identity is incompatible with the formation of Cold War-style blocs and will instead result in a more fragmented, multipolar world in which China can take its place as a great power (China is Ready for a World of Disorder, by Mark Leonard, in Foreign Affairs, July/August 2023).

In the words of the former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, both the US and China know that Jakarta has the potential to become a critical swing state in the great game for strategic influence in the Asia-Pacific region (The Avoidable War, by Kevin Rudd (NY: Public Affairs, 2022)). Aware of the leading role of Indonesia in Southeast Asia and conscious of the fact that Indonesia is located across the vital Malacca and Lombok straits, Chinese strategists realize that a lot more can and needs to be done to strengthen China’s political relations with Indonesia.

It’s wrong to think that Sino-Indonesian relations are grounded on very solid foundations. Several dark clouds are hovering over Sino-Indonesian relations, including Jakarta’s fear of economic domination by China, resentment of Chinese investments because of perceived unequal terms, territorial disputes, the efforts of Australia and Japan to enhance economic ties with Indonesia, allegations of bad treatment of Uygurs in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region and a common perception among Indonesians that the US is a better security partner. China should be sensitive to these issues and make greater efforts to enhance bilateral relations.

Crystal Wong is a senior consultant of Li Kwok & Law and co-director of GPA legal affairs of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

Kacee Ting Wong is a barrister, part-time researcher of Shenzhen University Hong Kong and Macao Basic Law Research Center, chairman of Chinese Dream Think Tank.

The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.

【CDTT Newspaper Article】Crystal Wong and Kacee Ting Wong:Time for stronger Sino-Indonesian relations (China Daily HK Edition, 4 Sept 2023)

https://www.chinadailyhk.com/article/349182#Time-for-stronger-Sino-Indonesian-relations

Chinese Dream Think Tank is a non-profit Hong Kong-based organization working with skilled volunteers, experts and professionals who are passionate about telling the China story well.

This article is reproduced by Kwun Media with the consent of China Daily.

中國夢智庫| 我國與印度尼西亞關係

在過往數年間,地緣政治逆風颳起,美國為應對我國和平崛起所構成的所謂威脅,對我國實施了一種最惡毒的全面性遏制政治措施。在某些方面甚至比冷戰時期美國對前蘇聯所採取的對抗態度更加惡劣。多樣化的反華策略中,其中一項是以美國牽頭,與其盟友組成一個冷戰式集團來包圍與遏制我國。但是,大多數東盟國家都作出努力,避免在中美之間做出不必要的選擇。舉例說明,印尼希望根據其戰略,以自主的方式考慮與制定本國外交政策。筆者選文,初探印尼副總統哈達提出的「自由、積極」(bebas aktif)外交原則對印尼外交政策的影響,我國與印尼外交關係有機會進一步得到改善。

1950年,印尼與我國建交。在蘇加諾政府鼎盛時期,兩國外交關係發展密切。由於我國與印尼共產黨(PKI)密切關係,又因為當時所謂的印尼華人忠誠度問題,兩國關係在1960年代中期開始惡化。由於發生在1965年9月30日的事件,再加上PKI被清算,兩國於1967年暫停外交關係。蘇加諾政府垮台後,蘇哈托將軍推行政策,歧視華裔群體,這使複雜的兩國外交關係更顯複雜化。

儘管如此,兩國於1990年恢復外交關係。1998年5月,亞洲金融危機爆發,印尼爆發反華暴動。根據一些人權團體,至少有168名印尼華裔婦女在騷亂中被強姦(註1)。我國前外交部長唐家璇先生直接呼籲印尼政府需確保印尼華人社區的安全。1999年10月,阿卜杜拉赫曼·瓦希德 (Abdurrahman Wahid)上台後,他試圖改善印尼華人的社會狀況。自佐科·維多多在2014年成為總統以來,印尼一直依靠經濟外交來保護本國的國家利益。

在維多多的領導下,我國與印尼經濟關係漸漸從單純依賴,向互相貿易過渡。維多多與我國國家主席習近平都致力於推動兩國之間的雙向投資,使有關我國「一帶一路」倡議下的投資呈現良好激增現象,我國在印尼的投資集中在採礦與能源領域(註2)。2019-2020年,我國(包括香港)在印尼境內投資僅次於新加坡,排名第二。

 

值得我國投資者關注的一個領域是印尼的基礎設施建設。現時,我國在印尼最大的投資專項是「印尼高速鐵路」。還有,印尼正大力發展電動汽車關鍵零組件供應鏈。「合眾新能源汽車股份有限公司」早前表示,將與印尼加強合作夥伴關係,在東南亞開發右舵駕駛電動汽車計劃。在數字經濟方面,「騰訊」在印尼設有數據中心,提供雲計算服務與工業數字化解決方案。「華為」也為印尼的數位基礎設施建設作出了貢獻。「長江和記」(香港)通過和記港口也在雅加達經營著印尼最大的集裝箱港口。

通過習近平主席的「全球發展倡議」(GDI),我國願意與已作好準備成為一個負責任的大國,為全球提供公共大眾商品。此外,GDI的八個重點領域與「東盟2025年願景」、「印尼發展計劃」的發展模式保持一致(註3)。總而言之,我國與印尼都樂見兩國關係能夠互相攜手推進更緊密經濟聯繫發展,筆者認為,兩國未來的共同經濟發展道路充滿著黃金機遇。

大家不僅要了解我國與印尼之間密切經濟聯繫的原因,還要關注經濟關係如何為促進更好的相邊政治關係創造更好的條件。一些經濟學家傳統上對經濟外交持懷疑態度,但在某些情況下,經濟的互通是促進不同因政治而關係分裂的國家們,重新回歸合作關係的唯一途徑(註4)。

印尼積極改善與我國的關係是戰略選擇,可被視為其向「均勢戰略」(Balance of Power)過渡的一部分。對「戰略自主」與上述「自由、積極」外交原則的追求使印尼能夠在中美競爭中,保持著安全距離。儘管雅加達仍然將美國視為可靠的維護本國國家安全夥伴,,但她一直不願意在中美競爭中偏袒任何一方。維多多一再表示,東盟不會成為任何一個別國的代理人。在我國戰略家眼中,一個國家對主權與國家身份認同的追求與美式冷戰集團思維是不能夠共存的。相反,這種趨勢的進一步發展將導致一個更加分散、多極化世界的出現,我國可以在其中佔據大國的地位(註5)。

用陸克文先生的話來說,我國與美國都知道,雅加達可成為亞太地區戰略更廣泛影響大博弈中的關鍵搖擺國(註6)。意識到印尼在東南亞的領導作用,又意識到印尼位於至關重要的「馬六甲」與「龍目海峽」,我國戰略家們意識到,咱們還有很多工作要做來加強兩國的政治關係。

這裡還有一個認知誤區,我國與印尼需要雙方做出進一步努力,攜手建立更堅固的相邊關係基礎。兩國關係還存在一些不確定因素,舉例說明,雅加達正密切關注我國經濟主導地位的發展、對我國投資在印尼的合約平等性還存在疑慮、「納土納海」還存在領土爭端、澳洲與日本正作出努力,加強與印尼經濟聯繫、還有所謂的新疆虐待穆斯林維吾爾人傳言以及印尼人對美國為更好國家安全夥伴的普遍認同感。北京應繼續對上述問題保持現有的敏感度,為改善兩國關係的整體氛圍,做出進一步的努力。

事實與資料來源已核查

註 1: Far Eastern Economic Review「Asia 1999 Yearbook」Hong Kong: Review Publishing Co. Ltd. 1999 at p 125

註 2: Eri Fitriani「Indonesia’s Wary Embrace of China」in Jacob Gunter & Helena Legrda (eds.)「Beyond Blocs: Global Views on China and US-China Relations」 Merics No.11, August 2022 chapter 3

註 3: 同上

註 4: Erez Cohen & Alexander Bligh「A Comparative Analysis of Israeli and Saudi Economics and An Argument for Bilateral Cooperation」in Asian Affairs Vol. LIV, No. 1 March 2023 at p 72

註 5: Mark Leonard「China is Ready for a World of Disorder」in Foreign Affairs Vol. 102, No.4 July/August 2023 at p 117

註 6: Kevin Rudd「The Avoidable War」New York: Public Affairs 2022 at p 197

文:王白儂律師
「中國夢智庫」大灣區法律事務聯合總監
英國劍橋大學法學碩士
粵港澳大灣區執業律師
中國委托公證人
婚姻監禮人

文:丁煌
深圳大學基本法研究中心兼職研究員
經民聯港島支部主席,「中國夢智庫」主席
香港薈萃協會法律顧問,城市智庫成員
國際公益法律服務協會顧問委員會成員
全國港澳研究會會員