In the last three decades, China has evolved from a poor, backward nation into becoming one of the most influential players in international relations. However, at a time when many countries are cozying up to China and trying to take advantage of China’s growing power, there is a strong feeling that Indonesia is simply not putting enough effort to strengthen its relations with China.
With the signing of the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between the two countries by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and President Hu Jintao on 25 April 2005, the stage was set for greater efforts to foster existing good bilateral relations and expanding cooperation to other potential and mutually beneficial efforts in politics, security, economics and social affairs. However, four years on, much remains to be desired in Indonesia’s foreign policymaking towards China. Of course, the Plan of Action for the implementation of the Strategic Partnership was just signed recently; however, can it be a guarantee for the two countries’ strengthening relations in the future.
There are weaknesses in Indonesia’s development of a China policy. If anything, one is tempted to say that there is not a China policy within Indonesia’s foreign policy design. At a time when many countries are cozying up to China and trying to take advantage of China’s growing power, there is this strong feeling – particularly among scholars of China studies in Indonesia – that Indonesia is simply not putting enough effort to strengthen its relations with China. Instead, Indonesia has been more comfortable with waiting for the Chinese to initiate the engagement and dictating it on their terms. Although there have been achievements made, much of the development in bilateral relations in the past few years have been attributed to the uncoordinated, exclusive engagement efforts of segments of the Indonesian Government and society.
If the trend continues, then Indonesia will most likely be doomed to facing insurmountable challenges in dealing with the growing multi-faceted power of China. In the end, the Indonesia’s failure to engage China appropriately would be to the benefit of its neighbors such as Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand.
There is a genuine need for a more coherent, target-oriented, comprehensive, and cohesive Indonesian foreign policy towards China. This could be achieved not only by attending to some of the major policy issues related to Indonesia-China relations, but also by encouraging changes within the structure and attitudes of the country’s foreign policymaking institutions, particularly the Department of Foreign Affairs. It is no longer sufficient for
The rise of China is a fact; it is pure nonsense to even argue in favor of either “containing” China or not engaging it at all. As a leading nation in