Indonesia, China and Taiwan: the right balance
On July 1, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) celebrated its 100e birthday. During his memorial speech in Tiananmen Square, President Xi Jinping claimed that China has never oppressed the people of any other country. Xi is clearly ignoring China’s treatment of Taiwan. Since 2016, relations between China and Taiwan have deteriorated. Taiwan’s Progressive Democratic Party (DPP) won presidential and parliamentary elections elections in 2016, displacing the Kuomintang (KMT) as Taiwanese voters became skeptical of the KMT’s policy of engaging with China.
Does the world need to contain China?
Since becoming president, DPP leader Tsai Ing-wen has challenged Beijing’s “one China policy”. In 2020, she said that Taiwan could not accept reunification with China as part of its “one country, two systems” autonomy offer. Taiwan’s first female president said that “both sides have a duty to find a way to coexist in the long term and prevent the intensification of antagonisms and differences,” pouring cold water on the hopes of Beijing’s long cherished reunification.
Chinese aggression, Taiwanese response
China has responded aggressively to Taiwan’s position. In a recent item, Lee Hsi-min, a retired Taiwanese admiral, and Eric Lee, an Indo-Pacific security analyst, point out that the CCP “is already taking action against Taiwan.” For years, China has taken progressive military action against its little neighbor. Beijing has been careful not to cross the threshold of armed conflict, but its sub-conflict operations have been relentless.
These operations are known as gray area assault. They involve airspace incursions, coastal violations, cyber attacks and disinformation campaigns. A recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies revealed that Chinese planes entered Taiwan’s airspace 20 times in the first eight months of 2020. The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has stepped up its air and naval operations. Fighters and bombers frequently tour Taiwan as a show of force. Chinese aircraft carriers have participated in military exercises and “routine” exercises in waters near Taiwan.
It’s part of China’s increased aggression in its neighborhood since Xi took over the CCP, with Beijing doing everything possible to undermine Taiwan’s institutions, demoralize its society, and undermine popular support for a democratically elected government. However, Taiwan has responded vigorously to this aggression. In April, Taiwan’s foreign minister pledged that his country defend itself on the “very last day”. Taiwan is spending more on defense, strengthening its military ties with allied powers, and even preparing for a potential war to maintain its independence.
Indonesian Balance Law
As tensions mount between China and Taiwan, Indonesia has been forced into a tricky balancing act. China is Indonesia’s largest commercial partner, a large source of investment and supplier of COVID-19 vaccines. In 2019, bilateral exchange reached $ 79.4 billion, a ten-fold increase since 2000. Indonesia has even started using Chinese currency for trade in a historic move away from the US dollar.
In 2020, direct foreign Chinese investment in indonesia, including flows from Hong Kong, reached $ 8.4 billion, up 11% year on year. A 142-kilometer Indonesian railway project is part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative and is expected to cost $ 4.57 billion. In April, Xi met with Indonesian President Joko Widodo and promised to to reinforce Chinese investment further. Xi said the two countries should step up infrastructure projects such as the high-speed rail link between the capital Jakarta and Bandung, a major Indonesian city.
Before the pandemic, 2 million Chinese tourists visited Indonesia every year. The Jakarta National Immunization Campaign uses the Sinovac Vaccine against covid19. (So far, the West has not supplied vaccines to Indonesia.) Derek Grossman, senior analyst at the RAND Corporation, argued that Indonesia warming up as far as China.
Even as Indonesia develops closer ties with China, it is also deepening its relations with Taipei. Taiwan’s track record in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic has been a spectacular success, and Taipei has donate 200 oxygen concentrators in Jakarta. Even though it was critical for the recent increase in cases, Taiwan remains a role model for a country like Indonesia, which needs all the help it can get.
Like the United States, the United Kingdom and many other countries, Indonesia does not recognize the independence of Taiwan. However, Trade between the two countries is on the rise. In 2019, Taiwanese investments in Indonesia exceeded $ 400 million. The previous year, trade between the two countries exceeded $ 8 billion, increasing 15.7% in one year. President Tsai “new south policy”Starts to show results.
Indonesia must be careful in managing its relations with China and Taiwan. Recently, the Japanese Deputy Minister of Defense suggested that Taiwan “as a democratic country” should be protected from China. The statement sparked fierce condemnation from Beijing. Jakarta should avoid any declaration that could upset Beijing, Taipei or even Washington. Indonesia needs economic growth, increased investment and collaboration with all the great powers.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.