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.

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?
PKI supporters rallying during the 1955 general-election campaign. (Wikimedia)

The ghost of the Communist Party of Indonesia still haunts

A failed military coup on 30 September 1965 which led to the massacre of more than a million Partai Komunis Indonesia (PKI) members and communist sympathisers continues to plague Indonesian politics. People want to know who was the real instigator of the coup: the PKI, the left-wing military, Sukarno, Suharto, or the CIA in the US are all possibilities. A 2019 book says that according to declassified documents from the Chinese Communist Party Central Archives, a central figure in the coup was in Beijing on 5 August 1965, and discussed Indonesia’s situation with Mao Zedong and other Chinese Communist Party leaders. Leo Suryadinata pieces together the events in explaining how this catastrophe continues to impact Indonesia.
A vendor sells newspapers along a highway in Jakarta, Indonesia, 10 June 2020. (Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/REUTERS)

Rising China: Indonesia's Chinese-language newspapers avoid taking sides

All six Chinese-language newspapers in Indonesia support closer economic co-operation with Beijing, and all are pro-Beijing when reporting on Taiwan and Hong Kong issues, except for one. Chinese-language newspapers also face other issues such as insufficient readership and advertisement revenue, and a dearth of journalists. ISEAS academic Leo Suryadinata takes a closer look at the papers' predicaments with a rising China on one hand, and a diminishing pool of local readers on the other.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo inspects Indonesian navy ships at Lampa Strait Navy Base, 8 January 2020. (Indonesia Cabinet Secretariat website)

Indonesia crosses swords with China over South China Sea: 'Bombshell to stop China's expansionism'?

Indonesia has recently taken a firmer position vis-à-vis China on the South China Sea (SCS). This was described by some as the first time that any of Manila’s Southeast Asian neighbours had stood up and endorsed the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal Ruling, which rejected Beijing's claims to most of the critical waterway in SCS and ruled in favour of the Philippines. Is Indonesia's assertive stance “a bombshell to stop China’s expansionism” or “an extension of the Indonesian existing policy”?