Rising together in strength for the region and the world

By Connie Rahakundini Bakrie

The successful and extraordinary meeting between Indonesian President Jokowi and President of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Xi Jinping was greeted with a flurry of news coverage in both print and social media in China after the two heads of state emerged from the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on July 26, 2022.

Workers at the track laying site of the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway in Bandung, Indonesia, July 1, 2022. (LI XIANGNING)

During the meeting, Indonesia expressed appreciation for the PRC’s support for Indonesia’s chairmanship at the G20 as well as Indonesia’s commitment to making ASEAN relevant, not only for the people of Indonesia but also for the region and the world.

President Xi expressed appreciation for President Jokowi’s efforts towards fostering peace and improving the humanitarian condition, among others, through visits to Kyiv and Moscow. President Xi said those visits demonstrated Indonesia’s responsibility as a big country. Previously, in his introductory remarks, President Xi welcomed President Jokowi and expressed his excitement to meet him in person.

The two leaders also discussed the importance of mutually beneficial concrete cooperation in the context of the Global Development Initiative (GDI). With the cooperation, it is hoped that the achievement of SDGs in developing countries can be better.

In essence, President Jokowi’s meetings with President Xi and Premier Li Keqiang focused on enhancing mutually beneficial economic cooperation and cooperation in other priority areas including trade, investment, health, maritime transportation, and regional and world issues.

Regarding investment, qualified investment in green economy development was discussed including renewable energy development, electric car development, battery industry development, and “green industrial park” development. Increasing investment to develop downstream petrochemical industries, telecommunications and semiconductor sectors was also discussed.

Positives of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)

The meeting of the two heads of state also served to dispel allegations and prejudices related to BRI often expressed by countries outside the region. The long series of agreements between the two countries preluding the meeting evidenced how BRI adheres to principles of extensive consultation, joint contribution, and mutual benefits and uses a market approach from project selection to financing. The developments showed that the BRI is an open and inclusive initiative rather than an exclusive club.

Launched in 2013, the BRI intends to promote synergy among development strategies in different countries, harness regional market potential, promote investment and consumption, create demand and employment, and enhance people-to-people exchanges and mutual learning between civilizations. The BRI is in an effort to foster understanding and mutual respect among countries so people can share a harmonious, peaceful, and prosperous life. In 2014, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo proposed the vision of the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF), which is closely related to the BRI in concept, objectives and fields.

Thus, President Xi Jinping and President Jokowi easily reached an important consensus to foster synergy between BRI and GMF. In terms of infrastructure connectivity, China supports construction of a sea highway proposed by President Jokowi and has participated in strategic and large infrastructure projects in Indonesia including roads, railways, and ports.

The two sides have been engaging in intergovernmental cooperation on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Corridor since 2017. The Jakarta- Bandung High Speed Rail (HSR) is the first phase of the strategic flagship project.

On the issues of financial burden, improving financial resilience, and creating new jobs, Chinese investment has helped ease Indonesia’s financial burden in terms of infrastructure development, human resource development, and social welfare projects.

In terms of encouraging human resource development, in 2017, Indonesia and China signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly establish the China-Indonesia Joint Research Centre on High-Speed Rail Technology. China’s Tsinghua University has established an East Asian research center in Bali which will also help Indonesia’s human resource development for Industrialization 4.0.

Strategic Plan to Revisit NAM

Is President Jokowi’s visit an effort to gain Chinese support as a regional balancer with the expansion of various defense and cooperation pacts in the region so that China will become more friendly with Russia and Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) adherents? Only time will tell.

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict seems to have opened the eyes of leaders in both countries that everything Western countries are currently doing in the form of so-called sanctions against Russia is a direct violation of human rights. Confiscation of property and wealth of Russian civilians and the State, without any due process, is an unprecedented violation of basic international norms. And the fallout will certainly hit the entire global investment and economic protection system. Measures to restrict exports and imports have been self-destructive for Ukraine’s so-called friends. For some reason, the problem is NATO countries destroying their own economies, which will impact the rest of the world, and thus further shifting the balance of world power.

DUMA Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin’s statement regarding the U.S. and NATO economic shutdown will actually give birth to a new power in the form of G8 consisting of China, India, Russia, Indonesia, Brazil, Mexico, Iran and Turkey, which is 24.4 percent ahead of the old group in terms of GDP per capita and purchasing power parity. That group may become a new coalition of eight countries seeking to cooperate to develop the world economy. The organizing effort should be led by China, Russia, and Indonesia.

Don’t forget that in the Soekarno era, the Jakarta-Peking axis was very strong. Indonesia received considerable aid and offers of friendship from China as well as from the DPRK and Russia. Soekarno preferred these countries for good reason. Soekarno firmly refused to accept assistance from the United States, which always involved conditionality and political interests. When visiting the U.S. and speaking in front of the U.S. Congress, Soekarno firmly rejected aid from the superpower.

Soekarno and the U.S. developed a much better relationship when John F. Kennedy became U.S. president. However, after Kennedy was shot, relations between Indonesia and the U.S. drifted away.

The U.S. was too arrogant to consider Indonesia an equal partner. Therefore, Soekarno turned to the Eastern Bloc, which welcomed him with open arms. Soekarno was also friendly with Chairman Mao Zedong. The welcome for Soekarno in Beijing was very warm. He was considered quite a distinguished guest.

Indonesia managed to become the most powerful country in Asia in the 1960s. The Western bloc, the U.S., and its allies kept a close watch over Indonesia. They were afraid of dealing with Indonesia because of its strong army and strategic backing from China and the Soviet Union.

As the world political map changes again, will the Jakarta-Beijing-Moscow Axis be rebuilt to realize a balanced, prosperous, and equitable world? One thing is sure: The strategic plans agreed on by the two heads of state in 2022 to expand cooperation will ensure Indonesia enjoys greater resilience in two-way investment and financial risk. And trade and personnel exchanges will create new job opportunities in Indonesia.

After economic measures are solidified, strategic measures related to defense, military, and industrial cooperation as well as future defense technology should also be considered to foster a peaceful region with independent power from our region and for our region.

About the author Connie Rahakundini Bakrie is an Indonesian military and defense analyst.

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