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Beijing, Jakarta must strengthen dialogue for mutual benefit

By Ge Hongliang | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-06 08:11

[Photo/China Daily]

Responding to Jakarta's objection to the presence of Chinese fishing boats in the waters off the coast of Indonesia's Natuna Islands, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang reiterated that given China's sovereignty over the Nansha Islands, its fishermen are entitled to fish in the nearby waters of the South China Sea. Geng also said it is important for both sides to manage their differences and maintain regional peace.

China has been making sincere efforts to resolve the South China Sea disputes with some of neighbors. But certain countries from outside the region have been trying to foment trouble by exploiting the South China Sea disputes. Indonesia shouldn't fall in their trap.

As large developing countries, China and Indonesia should deepen cooperation to realize their respective national dreams. Indonesian President Joko Widodo, now in his second five-year term, once proposed a "centennial dream": to make Indonesia a developed country and the world's fifth-largest economy by the 100th anniversary of its independence in 2045.

Since Indonesia's "centennial dream" and China's "two centennial goals", and the direction of their development are similar, the two countries should use their comprehensive strategic partnership to fulfill their respective goals, and strengthen bilateral relations.

Like the Chinese government, the Indonesian government, too, is committed to promoting economic and social development. After being elected president of Indonesia, Widodo adopted a pragmatic approach to promote development. He has been building industrial parks and attracting large amounts of foreign investment to improve its infrastructure. As a result, Indonesia's development during Widodo's first term was generally smooth.

Data show that from 2015 to 2018, the Indonesian economy grew at a steady pace-4.88 percent, 5.03 percent, 5.07 percent and 5.17 percent respectively. In 2018, Indonesia had the third-highest growth rate among G20 countries. Indonesia's development, including "Made in Indonesia 4.0", remains a priority for Widodo in his second term too. The "Made in Indonesia 4.0" program is aimed at developing the country's high-tech industry to sharpen Indonesia's competitive edge.

Focusing on how to promote development, China and Indonesia have, to a large extent, strengthened their comprehensive strategic partnership in recent years, laying a solid foundation for realizing their respective national dreams. On the political front, China and Indonesia have deepened mutual trust, while establishing a top-level mechanism to strengthen defense and security ties.

Sino-Indonesian economic and trade relations have kept growing in scale with China being Indonesia's largest export destination and source of imports, and the third-largest source of direct investment. The Sino-Indonesian trade volume increased from $63.3 billion in 2017 to $72.48 billion in 2018, up 23.7 percent year-on-year. And the consensus between the two countries' leaders to expand people-to-people exchanges is playing a vital role in boosting their cultural ties.

However, it is still difficult to synergize the "centennial dreams" of the two countries due to certain problems. First, the trade and investment imbalance continues to plague relations between China and Indonesia, as well as between China and some other Southeast Asian countries. Indonesia had a trade deficit of $18.22 billion with China in 2018, up 40.6 percent year-on-year.

Second, Chinese enterprises still face some functional and technical difficulties in setting up factories in Indonesia, including in land acquisition and shortage of work visas.

Third, cultural differences, especially religious difference, remain a thorny issue.

China and Indonesia face an increasingly complex competition from other regional powers due to the fast-changing global situation, especially the volatile security landscape, and the readjustment of the international division of labor. Therefore, the two countries need to strengthen their strategic dialogue and synergize their development policies to jointly adapt to the major changes in the regional and global environments, and promote common development.

The author is a senior research fellow at the China Chahar Institute and deputy dean of the College of ASEAN Studies, Guangxi University for Nationalities. The views don't necessarily represent those of China Daily.

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