Jakarta – When the world’s largest communist country signed a slew of multi-billion-dollar agreements with the world’s largest Muslim country, some observers are quick to point out that they are more than just about dollars and cents. Instead, the “strategic partnership” forged between China and Indonesia is seen as an extension of Beijing’s influence in the region.
Visiting Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Indonesian counterpart, Mr Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, signed a “strategic alliance declaration” on April 25. Under the cooperation deal, Mr Hu, who was on a two-day state visit after attending the Asian-Asian summit, promised billions of dollars in aid, loans and private investment.
President Yudhoyono, for his part, hoped that the new partnership would lead to, among other things, the supply of military equipment from China. Indonesia has been subjected to a US arms embargo for more than a decade.
“The agreements mark a new historic milestone in our relations,” Mr Yudhoyono said at a press briefing with Mr Hu.
The two countries restored diplomatic relations only in 1990 after severing them in 1967 following an attempted coup by the Indonesian Communist Party.
Mr Hu said: "This demonstrates not only that Sino-Indonesian relations have entered a new development stage but will also promote the development of Sino-Asean relations.”
In an editorial, The Jakarta Post said that the partnership “ushers in a new, more vigorous phase of cooperation between the two countries in politics, economics, law and security”.
“Bilateral economic ties...will expand more robustly thanks to the heightened momentum provided by the overarching political umbrella that the two leaders have established,” it added.
Some analysts see China’s pledges of aid and investment as part of a drive to usurp the United States as the dominant political and economic force in South-east Asia.
“China wants to be a major political power in politics and economy, and Indonesia is seen as one of the key players in the region,” Mr Bantarto Bandoro, an international relations analyst, told The Straits Times.
* Indonesia-China partnership (The Jakarta Post, April 27)
* China, Indonesia forge a strategic partnership (The Straits Times, April 26)
* RI-China seal multi-billion deal to strengthen trade (The Jakarta Post, April 26)