Author: Xiao Xin
Posted on: Global Times, May 4th, 2017
China and Indonesia are likely to develop closer ties as the «One Belt and One Road» initiative is gradually implemented.
The initiative will be of great benefit to Indonesia as it tries to break through infrastructure bottlenecks, and will lead to closer ties with China. This could have even deeper implications for China, as more intimate cooperation with Indonesia – which has the world’s largest Muslim population – would supposedly enhance Chinese businesses’ experience of investing in Muslim-majority countries, many of which sit along the Belt and Road route.
Indonesia is delighted that the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, first proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013 during his visit to Indonesia, has turned out to be a significant component of the Belt and Road initiative, China News Service said in an article in late April, citing Soegeng Rahardjo, Indonesian Ambassador to China.
Located between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, Indonesia is a sea transport hub of conspicuous geographic importance and is considered a vital pivot of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. As the ambassador put it, the China-proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road is strategically in accordance with the doctrine of the global maritime axis unveiled by Indonesian President Joko Widodo in late 2014, which plans to develop maritime infrastructure and connectivity. Infrastructure bottlenecks have long weighed on Indonesia, which is a constellation of more than 17,000 islands, and the high logistics costs undermine its overall competitiveness.
A high-speed rail project that connects Jakarta to Bandung is currently being built. It is the first of its kind in Indonesia, and as part of the broader Belt and Road initiative it exemplifies the benefits of Indonesia’s involvement in the strategic plan.
And China, for its part, will accrue experience in dealing with Muslim populations along the route. There are concerns both at home and abroad over potential risks involved in investing in Muslim-majority countries. Such fears are not entirely unfounded, but it doesn’t mean these countries and regions are no-fly zones for Chinese investment. It actually makes sense for China to build strategic ties with Indonesia, a secular nation that remains comparatively open to the outside world, as it could well be a boon for Chinese businesses’ expansion into the Muslim world.
With the Indonesian president coming to attend a high-profile Belt and Road summit in Beijing in mid-May, among 28 heads of state, it is anticipated that China and Indonesia will further strengthen their ties.