A cultural bridge between China and Indonesia
Our guest today is Gandhi Priambodo from Indonesia. He is now running a company in Beijing.
Gandhi says China has become his first home. It was here that he first met his wife and started his company, which is dedicated to film and television exchanges and cooperation between China and Indonesia.
Gandhi Priambodo takes an interview from China Plus on April 17, 2019. [Photo: China Plus]
"My company is called Nanyang Bridge Media. This is the fifth year. Our mission is to make a bridge between China and Indonesia through cultural exchanges. First, we show beautiful places in Indonesia to Chinese movie makers. Two movies have shot scenes in my country, and one of them will hit the theatres this year. We have also shown Chinese documentaries to Indonesians to help them understand China today. These documentaries were broadcast via national TV and were really popular in our country."
One of the documentaries was about cuisine in Ningxia, where lots of Chinese Muslims live. Gandhi says that before the documentary had been screened, most Indonesian people didn't realise that China's Muslim population had such a long history. But now, some of them are planning to take a trip to Ningxia and take a bite of its famous cooking.
Before Gandhi started his business, he was a foreign student here in the Chinese capital.
Gandhi Priambodo graduates from the Renmin University of China, with a Master’s degree, in 2009. [File Photo provided for China Plus]
"I first came to China In 2003 and studied at Beijing Normal University as an undergraduate student. In 2007, I was enrolled by the Renmin University of China as a candidate for a master's degree; my major was modern China studies. Before that, I studied Chinese at the University of Indonesia. At the time, it was the only one that offered Chinese language courses."
As well as his mother tongue, Gandhi can speak Chinese, English, and Arabic. He says Chinese is the most difficult. So why did he begin learning it? Gandhi says the connections between China and his family date back to 1955, when the first large-scale Asia–Africa Conference was held in Bandung, Indonesia. It is also known as the Bandung Conference.
"The reason why I love China is because my grandpa had a good relationship with China. He served as the governor of Jakarta when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai came to Bandung to attend the Asia–Africa Conference. As governor, he went to Bandung and met Zhou Enlai. My grandpa hoped my mum could come to China, but it didn't work out. Now, it's my turn. He told me that China is so good, he told me Zhou Enlai was such a great person… so I wanted to learn more about the country. And here I am."
Before he set foot in the country, Gandhi had seen some old photos about China, which were taken during his grandpa's visit to China in the late 1950s or early 60s. Beijing people were all wearing uniforms of the same color and riding bicycles in the streets. That was the young man's first impression of China.
"I saw loads of bicycles. My grandpa said it used to be the kingdom of the bicycle, but some day in the future we would see cars like Ferraris. He encouraged me to study in China, saying it was developing rapidly, so I came to Beijing in 2003."
In the 16 years that followed, Gandhi witnessed more and more Indonesian students coming to China. He recalls that in 2008, the total number of Indonesian students was just four or five hundred; 10 years later, the number had risen to about five thousand. And Indonesian people have expanded their options from Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, to many other Chinese cities like Wuhan and Chongqing, because they've realized that China is such a big, diverse country that both locals and foreigners can find a place in which to thrive.
Changes were also taking place in his motherland. Some Indonesians are now using Huawei phones and WeChat, a Chinese social media app; and the Alipay service is available at tourist attractions in Indonesia.
But Gandhi is not satisfied. He believes we still have a lot of work to do when it comes to people-to-people exchanges. He cites Bali as an example: many Chinese people have heard the name, but they don't know it is a province of Indonesia.
Gandhi Priambodo gives a speech at an event celebrating China-Indonesia ties. [File Photo provided for China Plus]
"There is an increasing number of Indonesians working and doing business here in China, like working in Shanghai, and doing business in Guangzhou. But there is only one Indonesian doing business related to cultural exchanges. That's me... Five years have passed, but I'm still not satisfied. I believe two people's understanding of each other's country isn't enough. I would like to enhance mutual understanding through cultural exchanges. Once we know each other better, we will find more opportunities for further cooperation."
Gandhi believes the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China will enhance mutual understanding between the two countries. The point is we should find an easier way to explain it to more people.
Gandhi Priambodo (L3) attends the Silk Road International Film Festival. [File Photo provided for China Plus]
"Indonesia is a Belt and Road country. In my country, it is called 'One Belt, One Road'. And some people just don't understand the name. So I sometimes make a brief introduction, such as China hopes to share growth opportunities with neighboring countries, and then they can exchange views, help each other, and solve problems together. Thanks to the Belt and Road Initiative, we could see more and more Indonesian products in the Chinese market; our students could get more scholarships; an increasing number of Chinese tourists are heading for Indonesia because of the visa-free policy… I just put it in a simple way, not complicated. So people can understand it."
Gandhi says his parents and other family members often come to China. Their favorite way to travel in the country is to take the high-speed trains, because they are safe, fast and comfortable. Indonesia will soon have its first high-speed railway, with the help of a Chinese constructor. All of the technology and equipment used in the project has come from China.
As well as high-speed trains, when Gandhi talks to his Indonesian friends they often ask about Chinese tourists, e-commerce guru Jake Ma and mobile payment services. This interest demonstrates how big the potential is for expanding cooperation between the two countries in infrastructure construction, tourism, and the information technology sector. The interest has also become a driving force that inspires Gandhi to continue his career building bridges to cross the cultural gap between China and Southeast Asia.