China is one of Indonesia’s major trading partners. In addition, relations between the two countries were also strengthened by a number of cooperation in the field of infrastructure.
A number of infrastructures have been built by China, one of which is the Jakarta-Bandung Fast Train. China is also involved in a number of other infrastructure financing in Indonesia.
Behind that, there are concerns about the flood of labor from China along with projects undertaken by the Bamboo Curtain country company.
In addition, there are also allegations that China will dominate Indonesia if the Indonesian government cannot repay debts given by China.
The Chinese side hurriedly denied it. That was considered absurd.
The detikcom team had the opportunity to talk with Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Xiao Qian at his office in the middle of this week.
What is the relationship between Indonesia and China, especially during the leadership of President Joko Widodo?
The friendly relations between China and Indonesia have a long history and next year we will welcome 70 years of establishing diplomatic relations between China and Indonesia.
In the 70 years we have passed, good relations between the two countries continue to develop. Especially in recent years under the direct attention and strong leadership of President Xi Jinping and President Joko Widodo, China-Indonesia relations in various fields have experienced extremely rapid development and achieved a series of new progress. The two countries have enjoyed the best relations for 70 years.
Suppose the leaders of the two countries have visited each other several times. They also often hold meetings in regional, international and bilateral activities. Also cooperation between the two countries in the fields of trade, investment, people to people exchange continues to grow.
This cooperation has always been at the forefront of cooperation between China and other friendly countries. In addition, cooperation between the two countries in synergizing the Belt and Road initiative and the World Maritime Axis strategy also continues to achieve new progress. In short, the current relationship between China and Indonesia has a very positive development momentum and enormous potential.
President Jokowi was re-installed and has formed a new cabinet. The Chinese side and the Indonesian side are pursuing time to jointly design a blueprint for their cooperation. Our great hope is that in the next 5 years, relations between the two countries can achieve even greater new developments under the leadership of President Xi Jinping and President Joko Widodo.
How does China see Indonesia’s position in Southeast Asia and the Asian continent?
Indonesia is a very important country. Arguably, Indonesia is one of the largest and most important countries in the south of China.
If we look at both the population, area and economic volume. Indonesia takes up almost 40% of all ASEAN, which has 10 members. So Indonesia is a major country with an irreplaceable role in ASEAN.
If we look at it from an ASEAN perspective, Indonesia is currently in a very positive momentum. Indonesia has succeeded in maintaining stability in the political field, the level of harmony in the social field is getting higher. In the economic field, during the past 14-15 years, the Indonesian economy has continued to improve rapidly, stable and healthy.
Indonesia’s GDP volume has exceeded US $ 1 trillion and Indonesia is the only G-20 country in Southeast Asia. So Indonesia is and will continue to play an increasingly significant role not only in Asia but also throughout the world.
So in the eyes of China, Indonesia is a large developing country with an increasingly international position.
In Jokowi’s first administration, development was directed towards infrastructure. China is involved in financing, what will the future look like? How much will be invested?
China and Indonesia are both large developing countries. This developing phase that we are in requires that we focus our energy on accelerating infrastructure development without stopping.
Infrastructure development will foster comprehensive economic development and lay a strong foundation for faster economic development. So President Jokowi’s strategy and policy that directed much of his energy into the field of infrastructure development in the previous 5 years, in our opinion are very appropriate.
Infrastructure cooperation is one of the priorities in synergizing The Belt And Road Initiative and the Global Maritime Plain strategy. In recent years the two parties have achieved significant results in pragmatic cooperation in the field.
For example, the construction of the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railroad project, which received much attention and was decided directly by the leaders of the two countries, was being carried out according to its schedule. The total length of the Jakarta Bandung fast train is about 143 km.
After the project is operational, travel time from Jakarta to Bandung will be cut to 40 minutes from the current 3-5 hours. The fast train in addition to saving a lot of travel time, will also encourage the emergence of economic corridors along the route so that it can make an important contribution to the development of the social economy for the people of Indonesia.
In addition, the cooperation between the two countries in the field of toll road and bridge construction, telecommunications, energy and so on has also achieved many results in the past few years. For example, several hydropower plants and PLTUs, the result of cooperation between the two parties, are already operating.
At this time, the island of Java has stopped restricting electricity usage. May we say that Chinese company building power plants have played an important role in ensuring energy supply in Indonesia.
Regarding future cooperation, I think there are three fields that have great potential. First is the regional comprehensive economic corridor initiative proposed by President Joko Widodo. At this time, the leaders of both parties have reached a political agreement. We have signed a MoU of cooperation and held the first Joint Steering Committee meeting, in which we have set the direction and area of priority cooperation.
Both parties also chose a number of projects that we could cooperate with. For the next stage, along with the completion of the general election and the formation of a new cabinet, both parties are preparing to implement the projects from the previous design stage.
The projects include the construction of ports, railways, toll roads, bridges, electricity, energy and telecommunications. Everything is worth cooperating with in the future.
The second is cooperation in industrialization. It was also conveyed by the Indonesian side to China so that the two countries could jointly design a blueprint for industrialization.
The relevant agencies from both parties are communicating and conducting consultations, in whatever fields we can cooperate and in what sectors the two parties can build industrial chains from upstream to downstream. I think this has huge potential for collaboration, infrastructure can of course be partly wrong.
Third, is the transfer of the capital city. President Jokowi has announced the relocation of the capital to East Kalimantan. The Indonesian side welcomed and expressed hope that the Chinese side would participate in the collaboration.
We will continue to communicate with the Indonesian side. I think the opportunity is also very big, for example infrastructure development in the new capital, in the fields of transportation, electricity, toll roads, even railways, energy supplies and so on. The two parties can also discuss how to improve connectivity between the city capital and DKI Jakarta and several cities in China.
China has experience in transferring non-capital functions. We are willing to collaborate with the Indonesian side in various fields, including designing, planning and building the capital and sharing experiences.
We are glad Chinese investment continues to grow. But China’s investment involvement is not like other countries. Because it involves not only experts but also unskilled laborers. Though in Indonesia unemployment is still quite a lot. Gives up a bit of negative sentiment?
As the cooperation between the two parties continues to develop, there are indeed a number of engineers, experts and skilled workers coming to Indonesia. I think this is a natural thing in cooperation between parties.
Based on statistics from the relevant agencies of the Indonesian government at present there are around 20 thousand workers working in Indonesia.
At present, many companies are coming to Indonesia, the number has reached thousands. In the past year, the trade volume of the two countries reached US $ 77.4 billion and Chinese investment in Indonesia has exceeded US $ 3 billion, covering many programs. Because of the large trade volume and investment value, the number of workers is not included much.
If we look at specific cases specifically, in one project the number of workers from China will not exceed a quarter of the number of Indonesian workers.
If we look at workers from China, most of them are senior engineers and experts, there are still some skilled workers. They are very necessary to operate special machines to ensure the machines can run normally and the implementation of projects is always safe.
Along with the development of the project, labor from China is increasingly reduced, while local workers continue to increase due to the cost of meme.
In addition to the matter of the participation of Chinese unskilled laborers, there is another negative sentiment from hardline Muslims that China is investing heavily in Indonesia. This is called a new form of colonialism?
Indeed in the last time there was a similar opinion which interpreted China’s investment and cooperation with other countries from a negative perspective. Indeed there are some people who do not know the real condition, but there are also people who deliberately distort the facts. In my opinion, facts are more convincing than words. Statistics can say. With this opportunity, I can share some numbers with you.
Based on information released by the Indonesian government, until the third quarter of Indonesia’s total foreign debt of around US $ 395.6 billion and taking 29.8% of total GDP, it was still in safe territory and was included in a relatively low level by international standards.
Indonesia’s largest bond is not China, the order is large, Singapore, Japan, the United States and then the World Bank.
If Singapore was US $ 66.497 billion, US $ Japan 29.442 billion, US $ 22.467 billion, World Bank US $ 17.78 billion, China only US $ 17.756 billion.
If we look at the Indonesian government debt totaling US $ 194.355 billion, including the US taking the most portion of around 12.64% with US $ 24.39 billion, then Japan, Germany and France, the debt to China only US $ 1,695 billion has not reached 1%
Whether we look at Indonesia’s debt in general or government debt specifically, China’s debt in terms of amount or percentage is far lower than the US, Japan or Singapore and other countries. The so-called China controlled Indonesia through debt or investment made absolutely no sense.
I think the conditions of cooperation with countries in Africa are also the same as conditions in Indonesia. What is called Debt Control Theory, or Debt Trap Theory is totally unfounded.
From China, what is the desired product from Indonesia?
If we look at many products that have been exported to China including palm oil, coal, tropical fruits, and also various minerals.
For example coal, there is an island called Hainan near Indonesia. So most coal is imported from Indonesia because the cost is relatively low. For example palm oil (CPO), China annually imports around 2 million tons of CPO from Indonesia and last year we added CPO imports from Indonesia by about 1 million tons. So in 2018 the total CPO import from Indonesia to China has reached 3.7 tons. China is one of the biggest CPO importers for Indonesia.
In addition we also have quite a lot of investment in Morowali. At present they not only export nickel to China but also to other countries around the world so that Indonesia has become the fourth largest exporter of nickel products in the world.
In the field of tropical fruit, we import a lot of mangosteen. Some time ago an MoU was just signed on imports of tropical fruits from Indonesia such as salak and dragon fruit. I am sure that the new progress will further encourage exports of Indonesian products to the Chinese market.
As we all know, Indonesia is the largest producer of bird nests in the world. The two countries are actively discussing how to expand opportunities for bird nest exports to China so that more bird nests from Indonesia enter the Chinese market.
One thing we need to pay attention to is that those who participated in the demonstration were not only the opposition and some of the Hong Kong people who were lied to, more importantly, there were certain powers from the outside region, especially the US and western countries openly taking a stand and policies that allow, support and even encourage acts of violence.