Leo Suryadinata

Senior Visiting Fellow, ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute

Dr Leo Suryadinata is Senior Visiting Fellow at ISEAS - Yusof Ishak Institute, and Professor (Adj.) at S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies at NTU. He was formerly Director at the Chinese Heritage Centre, NTU.

Indonesia's Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto gestures while attending the Gerindra Party leaders national meeting, in Bogor, Indonesia, 12 August 2022. (Willy Kurniawan/Reuters)

Prabowo Subianto: Indonesia’s controversial presidential candidate

Prabowo has been in Indonesia’s political scene for decades and his chequered past has not deterred him from multiple runs for vice-president and president. Given his support from the conservative and radical Muslims, with a potential running mate that can boost his standing, will Prabowo finally make his mark as Indonesia’s president in the 2024 elections? ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata gives a profile of this controversial figure.
Taiwanese soldiers take part in a military drill at an undisclosed location in Taiwan, on 8 August 2022 in this handout picture released on 10 August 2022. (Taiwan Military News Agency/Handout via Reuters)

Indonesia’s elites respond to Pelosi’s Taiwan visit

Indonesia has long pursued a free and independent foreign policy that does not take sides, says ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata. However, with increased tensions in the Taiwan Strait, the diplomatic elites and experts in Indonesia have strongly objected to US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan and criticised the US’s “double standards” in its foreign policy. Indonesia will therefore need to weigh its interests and consider its gains and losses in the competition between the two superpowers.
Anies Baswedan at an event in Jakarta, 22 July 2022. (Facebook/Anies Baswedan)

Anies Baswedan: Indonesia’s potential president adept at identity politics

ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata gives a profile of Anies Baswedan, former education and culture minister of Indonesia, current Jakarta governor, and potential presidential candidate. Will he run, and if he does, what is his platform likely to be?
This file handout picture taken and released on 17 December 2019 by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Indonesia's President Joko Widodo (left) during his visit to North Penajam Paser district near Sepaku in East Kalimantan, where the government plans to build its new capital city replacing Jakarta. (Handout/Indonesian Presidential Palace/AFP)

Jokowi's plan for Indonesia's new capital: Who benefits?

A law recently passed by the Jokowi government regarding the relocation of the nation's capital to East Kalimantan has generated much controversy. ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata notes that while there are objections relating to the conservation and ecology in Kalimantan, greater protests are coming from the anti-Jokowi camp that believe only a handful of wealthy people will benefit, and fear that the new capital will be controlled by foreign countries, especially China. Jokowi is in a race against time to move the capital before the next election.
Students gather as schools transition to in-classroom teaching amid the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic in Jakarta on 3 January 2022. (Adek Berry/AFP)

China’s Islamic diplomacy in Indonesia is seeing results

China’s efforts at Islamic diplomacy — including providing scholarships for Indonesian students and inviting leaders of Islamic organisations to visit China — seem to be paying off, at least in producing young academics like Novi Basuki, who has been defending China’s actions in Xinjiang. NTU academic Leo Suryadinata tells us more.
The Indonesian flag flies as people wearing protective face coverings wait to receive a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine dose at Pakansari Stadium in Bogor, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, 14 August 2021. (Yulius Satria Wijaya via Reuters)

How a hoax pandemic donation sparked anti-Chinese and anti-China sentiments in Indonesia

A bizarre case involving a generous donation from a Chinese Indonesian family that never materialised has brought the spotlight on identity politics in Indonesia. When the fraud was revealed, praise for the Chinese Indonesian community quickly turned into a means for the anti-government (and anti-China and anti-Chinese) social media channels to attack the Indonesian government and ethnic Chinese in Indonesia.
Vendors wearing protective masks serve their customers inside a stall selling decorations, ahead of the Lunar New Year, following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, at a shopping mall in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 February 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Lunar New Year, Chinese New Year or “China’s New Year”? The rise of (China’s) identity politics

ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata observes that in multi-ethnic Southeast Asia, the term “Lunar New Year” is more befitting than “Chinese New Year”, as the traditional celebration has always transcended ethnicity and national identity.
A man wearing a protective mask shops for decorations at a shopping mall ahead of the Lunar New Year, in Jakarta, Indonesia, 11 February 2021. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters)

Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle's Lunar New Year celebration paid tribute to Megawati

PDI-P, the political party in Indonesia with the most Chinese parliamentarians and heads of local government held a virtual Lunar New Year party to usher in the Year of the Ox. Party members paid tribute to Ibu Megawati Sukarnoputri, general chairperson of the party and former Indonesian president. How did this party put itself forward as the strongest guardian of Chinese interests in Indonesia? Leo Suryadinata listens in.
People wearing masks depicting the faces of Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and US President Joe Biden (right) pose in Surakarta, Central Java, Indonesia, on 20 January 2020, ahead of Biden's presidential inauguration later in the day. (Anwar Mustafa/AFP)

Winning Indonesia over: US and China seek Indonesia's support in Southeast Asia

Former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Indonesia in Oct 2020 was aimed at winning over Indonesia to isolate China, while Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit in January 2021 sought to reduce the US’s influence on Indonesia. While Indonesia is caught in between, it has tried to extract economic benefits by not yielding to one particular side. How long can Indonesia continue to walk the tightrope?