Premier Wen Jiabao will be attending the East Asian Summit Meeting in Indonesia in October this year, but he insisted on coming this spring for his official visit to make amends for the canceled one last year due to the major earthquake in Qinghai. This shows the importance of the Indonesia-China relations bilaterally and regionally as he sees it.
Now it is up to Indonesia not only to welcome a leader from a country that is very important to us and the region, as China is an important economic and political partner to Indonesia, but also to make up our mind where the relationship is headed.
As the US has to make up her mind how to relate to China, as she has become both an important partner and a strong regional competitor in the Asia Pacific region and in the world, Indonesia has to do the same to sustain regional and world order both can support.
I have a feeling that Indonesia is still harboring certain ambivalence toward China. On the one hand we recognize her as an important country, vital to our future developments and for the economic, political and security developments of the Asia Pacific, but on the other hand we have some misgivings about a close and equal relationship with her. The reasons are not merely historically rooted in the memories of China under Chairman Mao, but I suppose also because we do not know China enough and we always worry about our relationships with big countries including with India and the US.
Although we think of ourselves as a big and strategically important country in the region and the world, there is always an ambivalent attitude toward other big countries, and we do not have enough self-confidence to face them with ease and confidence. It is there in our relations with the US, but with China it is worse because we are still carrying some historical burdens.
We should be able to overcome such complexes toward others, including China, because Indonesia is also a big country with potential and if we can get our act together, we can be in the top 10 world economies within the next 10 years. China is an important country where our potentials can be developed together as we have with other countries such as the US, Japan, India and the European Union (EU).
Why do we not start nurturing the Indonesia-China relations to be more on a solid basis by setting up a Bilateral Committee which regularly monitors our relations (twice a year) in the various aspects and make efforts to improve them? The US has one with China and we have one with Japan.
The Committee consists of government representatives at Vice Premier level in China, and in Indonesia at the Coordinating Minister level. In addition, representatives from business, think-tanks, parliaments, media and selective social organizations should be included in the secondary tier.
The Indonesian government and the Indonesian elite have to balance negative criticism from various sectors in cases in which there is perceived unequal treatments or policies from China, and quickly solve these problems. Certainly we should and could overcome that together in cooperation with the Chinese government. A case in point is a cooperation to develop our SMEs in the form of training, facilitating better contacts, having credit lines and technical assistance to support them. Indeed there are a lot of things that we can do and achieve bilaterally.
Premier Wen is the most well-known figure in the Chinese leadership for the region because he is instrumental in developing our relationship, especially when he was in charge of China’s relations with ASEAN. As such he attended the ASEAN Plus Three Meetings and the East Asian Summit. If there is one in the Chinese leadership to whom we really can talk to in an open manner, it should be him.
Welcome Premier Wen!
Jusuf Wanandi is Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Foundation. He is also the international advisor of SIIS.
Source: The Jakarta Post