Widodo starts China trip, to focus on trade, mutual coordination on regional affairs
Published: Jul 26, 2022 12:00 AM
China Indonesia Photo:VCG

China Indonesia Photo:VCG

With President Joko Widodo of the Republic of Indonesia being the first foreign leader to visit China since the Winter Olympics in February this year, the ties between China and Indonesia are set to witness an all-round upgrade after his visit, Chinese observers said on Monday. They noted that both sides are not only eyeing to uplift cooperation on trade and infrastructure, but also inching toward cooperation on building "a community with a shared future for mankind" and upholding multilateralism and fair development for international community.

Observers also said that China has always appreciated Indonesia's determination to stand up against hegemony and to stick to a non-alignment approach. They believe Indonesia's stance and devoted efforts in promoting fair global development will not only win China's support in the upcoming G20 summit, but will also help the country, as well as the whole ASEAN, to choose what is best for them, excluding the US-made cacophony of a so-called China threat.

Lu Kang, Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia, posted on Twitter on Monday afternoon that Widodo started his trip to China. 

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Widodo was scheduled to visit China from Monday to Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Thursday.

During Widodo's visit, Xi will hold talks with him, and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang will also meet with the Indonesian president, Hua said. 

When asked about Widodo's detailed schedule in China, Zhao Lijian, spokesperson of  Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a routine briefing on Monday "it's the first high-level visit we're going to receive after the Beijing Olympic Winter Games, and I would like to say that we have gained useful experience during the Olympics." 

Zhao said that China will do its utmost to guarantee a safe and successful visit through effective virus prevention work. 

China is the first leg of Widodo's three-country tour of Asia. After Beijing, the Indonesian president will also visit Japan and South Korea for talks with their respective leaders, Indonesian media Jakarta Globe reported. 

Being the first foreign head of state to visit China since the Beijing Olympic Winter Games in February, Widodo's visit is seen by experts as symbolizing the significance of bilateral ties between China and ASEAN members. 

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said the focus of the Indonesian president's upcoming visits to China, Japan and South Korea "is to strengthen economic cooperation, especially in trade and investment," Jakarta Globe reported on July 21.

Chinese experts also anticipated trade will top Widodo's agenda during his visit in China. Xu Liping, a research fellow on Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing, told the Global Times on Monday that during his term, Widodo has been looking forward to attracting foreign investment and expanding trade. Also during his term, the trade volume between China and Indonesia doubled, which is a marvelous achievement, said Xu.

Statistics show that the bilateral trade volume between Indonesia and China reached more than $120 billion in 2021, an increase of 58.6 percent compared with the same period last year, despite the onslaught of COVID-19, and the rate of increase tops that of other ASEAN members. 

When meeting with visiting Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Jakarta on July 11, both Widodo and Wang agreed to accelerate cooperation on major landmark projects such as the Jakarta-Bandung High Speed Railway, the regional comprehensive economic corridor and some industrial parks. 

Indonesia has obtained massive achievements under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative, and it is in the country that the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was proposed, said Xu. He noted that China may seek to renew the memorandum of pushing forward the initiative and Indonesia's construction of Global Maritime Fulcrum during Widodo's visit. 

According to observers, the cooperation between China and Indonesia goes beyond just trade and specific projects and it is diverse and wide-ranging. 

Xu said that China has already set up a perfect example of building "a community with a shared future for mankind" with Laos and Cambodia, if state leaders of China and Indonesia can reach a consensus with the same aim, it will be a huge breakthrough. 

Experts also hailed Indonesia as a partner standing with China in upholding multilateralism and promoting fair global development. 

The 17th G20 Heads of State and Government Summit will take place in October 2022 in Bali, Indonesia. Under the Indonesian presidency, the G20 will focus on the theme of "Recover Together, Recover Stronger."

Xu said that as this year's G20 meeting focuses on economic recovery, Indonesia has also invited many developing countries to participate. "Thus it needs the support and coordination of China, and will rely on China to give a voice representing those developing countries, and to push for equitable growth," said Xu.

The expert also noted Indonesia wishes that the summit won't be overshadowed by the Russia-Ukraine crisis, as the West keeps hyping and blackening Russia's role in G20 talks due to the crisis. US President Joe Biden even called for Russia's removal from the G20 in March, according to the Reuters.

In a recent interview with China Central Television on Friday, Lu Kang said that Indonesia has been insisting that all members of G20 should participate equally, and no country has the power to decide which other countries can participate in the G20. China firmly supports Indonesia in this regard. 

Xu noted that Indonesia, being an emerging economy and regional power, plays an important role in coordinating regional affairs, and Widodo's visit can enhance the coordination and cooperation between China and Indonesia, which in turn will help lift the international community out of the global economic downturn caused by COVID-19 and push for regional stability. 

US cacophony

While the Indonesian president starts his China tour, the US keeps harping on the "China threat" cacophony in Indonesia. US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said while visiting Indonesia on Sunday that the Chinese military "in the air and at sea, have become significantly more and noticeably more aggressive in this particular region."

In response, Zhao said the US total military expenditure ranks first in the world. On top of that, it has recently submitted a proposed Fiscal Year 2023 Budget request of about $813 billion for defense. The US runs more than 800 overseas military bases globally, and has only not waged wars for 16 years since it was founded.

"Who's been dispatching military vessels and aircraft abroad to flex its muscles? Who's been challenging regional peace, security and stability? And who is more aggressive? The facts speak for themselves," Zhao said. 

On Tuesday, the US will host a virtual meeting of officials representing the 14 countries that have joined the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, as Washington seeks to expand its engagement with Asia. The ministerial meeting will be hosted by US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, their offices announced in a statement on Sunday.

The US's intention to rope in Indonesia to its side is evident, given the frequent visits of US officials to the Southeast Asian country by either the US vice president, secretary of state, defense minister or a visiting US general, Xu said.

Despite continuous US moves to woo Indonesia, the country has not been swayed; instead, the country insists on its national policy of being an independent country and taking no sides between China and the US so as to remain neutral. 

Indonesia, as one of the advocates and initiators of non-aligned movement, could be seen as a pioneer of anti-imperialism. As one of the organizers of the 1955 Bandung Conference, where non-aligned and newly independent nations gathered to agree on a set of core principles in international relations, Indonesia spoke out against hegemony and declared the its ambition and determination to support the justice on the international stage as China did, Xu explained. "No matter how the US sow discord and create differences between Indonesia and China, Washington won't get anything out of it."