A new chapter of China-Indonesia partnership
By SUN Xi
On May 6, 2018, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Jakarta, kicking off his official visit to Indonesia, a tropical country made up of some 17,500 islands. This year marks the 5th anniversary of the establishment of the China-Indonesia comprehensive strategic partnership, and Premier Li chose Indonesia as his first overseas trip since China’s new cabinet took office this March.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and Indonesian President Joko Widodo meet the press after their talks at the presidential palace in Bogor, Indonesia, May 7, 2018. [Photo: Xinhua]
It is widely believed that this historical visit will further consolidate political trust, deepen win-win cooperation between the two countries and their people, and open a new chapter of China-Indonesia partnership in a new era.
Premier Li has met Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Vice President Jusuf Kalla, and attended a China-Indonesia business summit. The two parties will also issue a joint government statement and sign several cooperation documents.
In fact, in recent years, high-level visits between China and Indonesia have been frequent. Since the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Indonesia twice and Indonesian President Joko Widodo has visited China five times. The two sides have established a full range of dialogue and cooperation mechanisms.
Indonesia plays a very important role in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Among the 10 ASEAN member states, Indonesia is the largest economy and market. Indonesia’s nominal GDP is around one trillion US dollars, accounting for nearly 40% of the total GDP of ASEAN, and its population exceeds 260 million, accounting for more than 40% of the total population of ASEAN.
Moreover, the ASEAN Secretariat is housed in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesian. This year also marks the 15th anniversary of the strategic partnership between China and the ASEAN. Therefore, Premier Li will also visit the ASEAN Secretariat, meet with ASEAN Secretary General, and attend celebration activities of the anniversary.
It is believed that “Friendship, which derives from close contact between the people, holds the key to sound state-to-state relations.”China and Indonesia have forged a very comprehensive friendship in all aspects.
Politically, China and Indonesia share a long history of friendship, although with some twists and turns. On April 13, 1950, Indonesia became the second ASEAN state to establish full diplomatic ties with the newly established People’s Republic of China, only slightly later than Vietnam.
Even today, most Chinese people still remember the world-famous "Bandung Conference". On April 18-24, 1955, the first large-scale Asian-African Conference was held in Indonesia’s Bandung to promote Asian-African economic and cultural cooperation and to oppose colonialism or neo-colonialism. The conference issued a 10-point "Declaration on Promotion of World Peace and Cooperation” incorporating the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence,” and China played an important role in the conference’s success. The conference was an important step toward the Non-Aligned Movement.
Economically, cooperation between China and Indonesia has maintained a good momentum. In 2017, the bilateral trade volume between the two countries reached USD 63.3 billion, a18.3%year-on-yearincrease. China has become Indonesia's largest trading partner for seven years in a row.
In 2017, China’s direct investment in Indonesia amounted to USD 3.4 billion, a year-on-year increase of 30.8%.China has become Indonesia’s third largest investment source for two consecutive years. As of March 2018, China’s total investment in Indonesia has accumulated more than USD 14 billion, and Indonesia has become China’s second largest investment destination within ASEAN.
ASEAN is a priority for China’s neighbourhood diplomacy and a key area for the Belt and Road initiative. ASEAN is also an important partner of China in promoting the building of new-type international relations and a community of shared future. As an influential ASEAN member and important developing country, Indonesia’s future cooperation with China will focus on the Belt and Road initiative.
Indonesia has been actively promoting alignment of its national development blueprint the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Corridor” and its domestic large infrastructure projects such as the “Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway” with the Belt and Road initiative.
In fact, pragmatic and win-win cooperation between the two countries under the Belt and Road” framework has entered a fast track. Last year alone, the total amount of new infrastructure contracts signed by Chinese enterprises in Indonesia was as high as USD 17.2 billion, sharply up 60.4%year-on-year.
Culturally, people-to-people exchange has also been speeding up. In July 2015, Indonesia waived visa requirements for Chinese tourists. In recent years, the beautiful island of Bali has become one of the most popular international tourist destinations for Chinese mainland tourists. China is now Bali's largest source of foreign tourists. Meanwhile, China has also been Indonesia's largest source of international tourists for two consecutive years. In 2017, the total number of Chinese visitors to Indonesia reached 2.059 million, 14.95% of its total international tourists.
China and Indonesia host the first and the fourth largest populations in the world respectively, and both are emerging nations sharing the common vision of “pursuing peace, development, and prosperity.” The cooperation of China and Indonesia will not only benefit the 1.6 billion people of the two countries but also Asia and the whole world. The traditional friendship between China and Indonesia is profound, and we sincerely believe our comprehensive strategic partnership will reach a new height in this new era.
(SUN Xi, a 1980s China-born alumnus of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is an independent commentary writer based in Singapore. He is also the founder and CEO of ESGuru, a Singapore-based consultancy firm specializing in environmental, social and governance issues.)