The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
Despite their long-term relations, it seems that Indonesia and China do not yet have a clear picture of one another, a senior Chinese diplomat says.
""Both parties should develop better communication to give a comprehensive picture of their country in order to develop a better relationship,"" Chinese minister counselor for economic and commercial affairs Tan Weiwen said during his visit to The Jakarta Post on Monday.
Although the countries' two-way trade enjoys a steady annual growth of 20 percent, direct investment seems to have slowed, he said.
Tan said that trade between the two countries stood at US$13.48 billion in 2004, of which China experienced a $970 million trade deficit.
Meanwhile, in the same period, Chinese investors only channeled roughly $2 billion into Indonesia, primarily in the oil and mining sector. In return, Indonesian investors are slowing down on investment in China.
""Indonesia was so occupied with its own domestic issues that it did not respond to China's economic growth as vigorously as other Southeast Asian countries,"" said Tan.
He added that Chinese investment in Indonesia had not been significant compared to investment made in other neighboring countries due to the problem of legal uncertainty.
""In recent years, there was not much investment made in Indonesia because the businessmen are waiting for more legal certainty and a clear division between Indonesia's central government and local administrations,"" he said.
Tan pointed out that Chinese businessmen needed clear rules on business deals made with the central government once they faced the local administrations. ""These are the problems that the Indonesian government should overcome first,"" he said.
Aside from slow growth in trade and investment, Indonesia is also experiencing a similar situation in its tourist arrivals from China. ""Out of a total of 20 million Chinese tourists traveling abroad annually, only some 100,000 chose Indonesia as their destination,"" Tan, who was born in Indonesia, said.
The figure stood in stark contrast with the 700,000 Chinese tourists visiting Singapore last year.
""People in China do not have a comprehensive view of Indonesia and what is going on in the country,"" he said. ""The frequently asked question is whether Indonesia is safe in view of the recent bombings and whether the anti-Chinese movement that erupted in 1998 is over.""
Indonesia has experienced difficulty in luring foreigners after the 2002 bomb blasts on the paradise island of Bali.
A bomb blast in front of the Australian Embassy in Jakarta in October last year proved to be another blow, especially after the United States, several European countries and Australia issued repeated warnings against traveling to the country.
""It is the task of the media in both countries to report objectively on what is going on both in Indonesia and in China,"" he said. ""Tourism in Indonesia actually has much more potential but there has not been much promotion of it.""
Earlier this year, the government made moves to target tourists from China -- in addition to India and the Middle East -- to increase revenue from the sector next year and to reach its target of six million visitors and US$6 billion in foreign exchange by establishing visa services in the Indonesian Consulate in Guangzhou and Shanghai.
""People in the two countries should be well-informed in order not to be prejudice toward one another,"" Tan added. (003)