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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
The US Department of Defence has asserted that Beijing has “likely considered” logistics and basing infrastructure in five Southeast Asian countries. It is worth noting that such arrangements are predicated on a host nation’s inclination to support such a presence. At the moment, such willingness appears to be in short supply, except in the case of Cambodia.
Tensions in the South China Sea have surged since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. China has pressed its jurisdictional claims prompting the US to increase its criticism of Beijing’s actions and its military presence in the South China Sea. In response to China’s activities, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam have rejected Beijing’s nine-dash line claims and invoked international law and the 2016 Arbitral Tribunal ruling in support of their maritime sovereign rights. ISEAS academic Ian Storey takes stock of the situation and gives a broad sweep of what we can expect in the next 18 months.
Beijing has pledged financing, materials, technology and manpower to build railroads, hydropower stations and other infrastructure projects in Southeast Asian countries under the BRI. But China continues to face enormous challenges getting projects off the ground in countries that need the investment most. US academic Murray Hiebert examines why.
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.