Indonesia's President-elect Prabowo to visit China, continue friendly ties
Prabowo expected to insist on non-aligned foreign policy, may play bigger role in China-ASEAN ties
Published: Mar 29, 2024 09:08 PM Updated: Mar 29, 2024 11:00 PM
China Indonesia Photo:VCG

China Indonesia Photo:VCG

Indonesia's President-elect and Great Indonesia Movement Party General Chairman Prabowo Subianto is scheduled to visit China from March 31 to April 2, amid great expectations from both sides that the positive momentum of amicable ties will be sustained. Analysts said greater connections with China do not imply that Indonesia will choose a side in the rivalry between big countries, rather, Indonesia will insist on a non-aligned policy and play a more active role in dealing with regional issues.  

At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Prabowo will visit China from March 31 to April 2, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying announced on Friday.

President Xi will hold talks with President-elect Prabowo and Premier Li Qiang will also meet with him. Leaders of the two sides will exchange views on bilateral relations and issues of common concern, Lin Jian, a spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Friday.

Prabowo's choice of China as his first visit as president-elect fully reflects the high level of China-Indonesia relations, said the spokesperson.

China and Indonesia are both important developing countries and representatives of emerging economies, with deep traditional friendship and close and in-depth cooperation. In recent years, under the strategic guidance of President Xi and President Joko Widodo, the two countries' relationship has maintained a strong momentum of development and entered a new stage of building a community of shared future, Lin said.

Both sides will take this visit as an opportunity to further consolidate their traditional friendship, deepen all-round strategic cooperation, promote the strategic cooperation between China and Indonesia, and create a model of cooperation between developing countries for unity, cooperation, and common development, injecting more stability and positive energy into regional and global development, Lin said.

Analysts said that it is not usual to see a president-elect being invited to China, and Prabowo's upcoming visit hints at the high possibility for the president-elect to continue President Joko Widodo's friendly policy toward China and carry forward the non-aligned foreign policy to avoid choosing sides amid competitions among major countries, analysts said.

They also expressed high anticipation for Indonesia to play a bigger role in promoting China's relations with ASEAN and in dealing with regional affairs, especially on the escalating South China Sea issues.

On March 20, Indonesia's General Elections Commission (KPU) announced that Prabowo, who is the current defense minister of Indonesia, won the country's 2024 presidential election. The inauguration of the newly elected president and vice president is scheduled for October 20 this year.

On the same day the election outcome was announced, President Xi congratulated Prabowo and said that he looked forward to working with him to secure greater achievements in building a community with a shared future, and set an example of solidarity and coordination for common development among major developing countries so as to bring more benefits to the two peoples and inject strong impetus into regional and global prosperity and stability.

How to promote a China-Indonesia community of a shared future and further develop China-Indonesia relations and expand cooperation will top the agenda of Prabowo's meeting with Chinese leaders, Ge Hongliang, deputy director of the College of ASEAN Studies at Guangxi University for Nationalities, told the Global Times on Friday.

Ge said Prabowo may strongly carry forward President Widodo's China policy. In terms of the economy, aside from the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway, which is the most notable accomplishment of China-Indonesia economic cooperation in recent years, bilateral cooperation has also expanded to other fields, particularly high technology.

Prabowo will continue to press Indonesia to move up from the bottom of the global industrial chain, thus cooperation with China will also be advantageous to Indonesia, said the expert.

Maintaining close ties with China does not mean Prabowo will abandon the long-standing principle of non-alignment in global affairs, some observers said.

During the presidential debate in Jakarta in January, Prabowo used the sentence "Having a thousand friends is insufficient, while having one enemy is too many" to emphasize the importance of fostering amicable relations with nations worldwide, Indonesian media reported.

Ge noted that as defense minister of Indonesia, Prabowo has a clear understanding of regional stability and hoped Southeast Asia will not fall into the arms race or competition between countries.

After Prabowo takes office, Indonesia will also insist on using political dialogue and negotiation to resolve regional conflicts, especially on the South China Sea issues. This underscores the significance of Indonesia's position as a regional stabilizer, said the expert.