Illustration: Chen Xia/Global Times
At the invitation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indonesian President Joko Widodo is visiting China from July 25 to 26. Widodo is the first foreign head of state to visit China after the Beijing Winter Olympics, and China is also the first leg of Widodo’s first East Asia trip since the COVID-19 outbreak, which reflects fully the great importance that China and Indonesia attach to their relationship. The visit is meant to further deepen strategic mutual trust and practical cooperation between the two sides.
Indonesia, an important neighbor of China, is the largest and most populous country in ASEAN and the opportunities offered by economic globalization are important for the country’s development. There is great common interest and scope for cooperation between China and Indonesia. A typical example is that Chinese companies have invested in nickel mines in Indonesia, making it a global stainless steel producer by leaps and bounds, while Chinese companies have also achieved a good return on investment. This cooperation between China and Indonesia has brought tangible benefits to both countries and peoples.
It is therefore not difficult to understand why trade between the two countries is increasing despite the pandemic: the volume of bilateral trade exceeded 120 billion dollars in 2021, up 58.6% year on year, the largest increase among ASEAN countries. China has been Indonesia’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years. Significant progress has been made in flagship “Belt and Road” projects, such as the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR), the Comprehensive Regional Economic Corridor and the “Two Countries, Twin Parks”. China-Indonesia relations have heated up in recent years, driven not by geopolitics but by inherent development momentum and the needs of both sides.
We noticed that when the rhetoric of Mark Milley, chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, about China being “aggressive” in Indonesia, just a day before Widodo left for his visit to China, is clearly no coincidence. In a downright provocative meeting with Indonesian military officials on Sunday, Milley said he wanted to cooperate with the Indonesian military to “address all challenges posed by China.” He also claimed that the Chinese military has become much more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years.
Milley’s purpose is too obvious, which is undoubtedly to provoke China-Indonesia relations and spoil the atmosphere of President Widodo’s visit to China. But such meanness to China is also extremely disrespectful to Indonesia. He denies Jakarta’s pragmatic approach to China, and even its independent and autonomous diplomatic capabilities. Milley is about to say directly to Indonesia: “China is bad, don’t play with it”. But won’t Indonesia itself be able to distinguish between good and evil? During the Shangri-La dialogue last month, Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto had just urged countries to respect “China’s legitimate return to its position as a great civilization”.
In fact, such “coincidences” do not only occur in Indonesia. In recent years, many major diplomatic activities initiated or advocated by China have become targets for the United States to sabotage and undermine. For example, seeing that relations between China and South Pacific island countries are developing well, Washington immediately recognized the “special value” of South Pacific island countries as if it had discovered a new continent. When China and African countries jointly proposed the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Washington eyed it with greed and is now preparing to hold a US-Africa summit. Regarding China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which is in full swing, Washington is acting as if it is encountering a great enemy and has launched several alternative plans, aiming to replace the BRI.
Today, in the name of providing countries in the region “an alternative to China”, the United States is in fact trying to weaken or break its already close ties with China in a forceful way, undermining peace and regional stability. For the United States, this is not only shameful, but also a dangerous degradation of national power. With American diplomacy reduced to a piece of chewing gum stuck to the soles of Chinese diplomatic shoes, where will we be able to see the “global leadership” of which the United States has always been proud? While paying close attention to China, the United States gradually lost itself and then lost its vision, spirit and creativity as a great country.
Recently, some US and Western opinion forums have been pushing the concept of “China-US rivalry in Southeast Asia“, which is a completely false proposition dreamed up by Washington. The common development between China and Southeast Asian countries has a broad view of development and is not aimed at “chasing the United States out of the Pacific Ocean”. Washington’s “coercive diplomacy” is becoming increasingly ineffective. Asia-Pacific is a land of growth and its waters have traditionally been home to active merchant fleets, so few here want to see an atmosphere of conflict created by American planes and warships looming in the region. Peaceful.
Contrary to Washington’s rhetoric, China’s cooperation with Southeast Asian countries is real. Paved roads and constructed bridges are visible and tangible to ordinary people. The Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway in Indonesia has entered the track-laying phase. It is China’s first high-speed train project with a complete industrial chain to be exported overseas, and it is also the first high-speed train project in Southeast Asia with a speed of 350 kilometers per hour. It is believed that the existence of this railway will certainly survive Washington’s “Chinese threat” campaign.