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.

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?
Members of Indonesian Trade Unions carry giant handcuffs during a protest against the government's labor reforms in a "job creation" bill in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 November 2020. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

Indonesia: Why China-funded companies are targeted by the anti-Jokowi camp

Recently, a Chinese subsidiary nickel factory in Konawe, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, was crippled by fiery worker protests. This latest incident in a string of labour protests in Indonesia may seem to be about discontent among Indonesian workers at their treatment by China-funded companies. However, ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata says that there may be more to the stoking of anti-Chinese sentiment than meets the eye.
This handout photo taken and released on 20 October 2020 by the Indonesian Presidential Palace shows Japan's Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga (R) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo (L) walking during a welcoming ceremony at the presidensial palace in Bogor on the outskirts of Jakarta. (Handout/Indonesian Presidential Palace/AFP)

Japan's Suga failed to win Jakarta's support for security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific

Prime Minister Suga’s first overseas trip shows that an “independent and active” Indonesia is not an easy partner for Japan’s Free and Open Indo-Pacific strategy.
Prabowo Subianto looks on before taking his oath as appointed Defense Minister during the inauguration at the Presidential Palace in Jakarta, Indonesia, 23 October 2019. (Willy Kurniawan/REUTERS)

After a 20-year ban, why was Indonesia's Prabowo invited to the US?

Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto's visit to Washington DC has raised many eyebrows and questions, says Leo Suryadinata. Is the US worried about Indonesia leaning too much towards China?