Closer To China

Closer To China
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China-Indonesia ties are currently seeing a renaissance, not least boosted by the commemoration of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two regional giants.

In almost all sectors statistics show a positive trend. In the last decade bilateral trade enjoyed an average growth rate of 20 percent annually. Both countries bilateral trade volume to reach US$30 billion in 2010 and $50 billion by 2014.

In fact China has become the single largest origin for imports and the third largest export destination for Indonesia. The commencement of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area (CAFTA) will only spur further both trade and investment in the coming years. Already more than 93 percent of Indonesian exports to China enjoy zero tariffs.

People-to-people, the foundation of any substantial relationship, is also becoming increasingly solid. Last year the Chinese government reported that nearly 8,000 Indonesians studied there. According to China’s Ministry of Education this means Indonesians make up the eighth largest foreign student contingent there. These numbers are catching up, if not already surpassing the number of Indonesian students visiting traditional study destinations such as Australia and the United States.

Add to that Beijing’s eagerness to invest in Chinese cultural centers here. A total of six Confucius Institutes for language training are to be set up here.

The various aspects of the relationship are being spurred on with the “Year of China-Indonesia Friendship” to mark this 60th anniversary. Highlighted by various art exhibitions, cultural performances and seminars there can be nothing but a constructive outcome to these endeavors.

We commend the Chinese government, especially the Embassy of China here, for their enthusiasm in engaging with the Indonesian public. It may be two decades since the resumption of diplomatic ties, but wariness towards this Asian giant still lingers in some quarters.

The recent uproar over CAFTA was one example of how emotions, misunderstanding and suspicions can easily boil over to potentially disrupt relations which were previously perceived as tranquil.

It is imperative that whilst both sides continue to build on the future, they should not neglect the problems that dogged them in the past. As a giant in Asia and a regional power, Beijing must accept that its moves will always be analyzed with skepticism. Hence they must be well motivated in their approach and sincerity towards their neighbors and partners.

Issues (and questions) surrounding the South China Sea, the future trajectory of domestic political developments and the environment along with financial and trade issues should be addressed in an open, constructive manner.

It is not so much the case of others, especially Indonesia, wanting to intervene in China’s domestic affairs, but rather that the consequences of any developments involving China may have such major impacts on the region as a whole.

Without such willingness for dialogue, suspicions will only grow and multiply.

We are, nevertheless, confident that China is fully aware of its “obligations” as a responsible regional power. The recent and current dialogues that have taken place are a key element in developing mutual understanding to a new level in both countries.

Honesty can hurt, at first. But honesty and openness is the basis of trust which comprises the pillar of longstanding relationships.

We support and look forward to more intense interaction on these lines in the months to come.

Source: The Jakarta Post - 21 Sept 2010

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