China and Indonesia’s 70th anniversary of diplomatic relations fell on April 13. To celebrate this joyous occasion, President Xi Jinping and President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo exchanged congratulatory letters and both countries launched commemorative stamps and envelopes.
Both China and Indonesia are ancient Asian civilizations. Through the ages, people of our two nations have traded goods, shared knowledge, and exchanged cultures along the ancient Maritime Silk Road. Together, they have composed one piece after another of beautiful music about their exchanges and interactions over the centuries.
Our peoples sympathized with and supported each other in their respective struggle for national independence and liberation in the early 20th century. In 1950, Indonesia was among the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with China shortly after its founding.
In this new century, the bilateral relationship has grown by leaps and bounds, from establishing a strategic partnership in 2005 to a comprehensive strategic partnership in 2013. Our bilateral relations have embarked on a fast lane of growth.
Over the years, President Xi paid two visits to Indonesia and President Jokowi five visits to China. Together, they have held eight bilateral meetings and exchanged four phone calls, reaching an important consensus on bilateral ties and charting the course for future relations. Two countries have established dialogue mechanisms at the vice premier level and maintained frequent exchanges between governments, legislatures and political parties, which have facilitated cooperation across the board.
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The Initiative of 21st Century Maritime Silk Road was first announced in Indonesia. In 2018, the two governments signed a memorandum of understanding on jointly building the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and Global Maritime Fulcrum. Steady progress is being made in the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed rail, the first of its kind in Southeast Asia. Intergovernmental cooperation on regional comprehensive economic corridors is well under way. China also plays a facilitating role in Indonesia’s industrialization drive.
China has been Indonesia’s top trading partner for nine consecutive years. Two-way trade reached US$79.4 billion in 2019, up by tenfold since 2000. In just five years, China’s local investment ranking jumped from ninth to second place. Together, we have built Indonesia’s longest cross-sea bridge, the Surabaya-Madura Bridge, and second-largest dam, Jatigede Dam. Morowali Industrial Park has turned Indonesia into the second-largest exporter of stainless steel in just five years.
In recent years, Indonesia has received an annual average of more than 2 million visits by Chinese citizens, making China a major source of foreign tourists in Indonesia. China is also the second-largest host of Indonesian students totaling more than 10,000.
Both China and Indonesia are major countries in Asia and members of the Group of 20, which makes our bilateral relations go beyond the bilateral context. We are making concerted efforts to push forward China-ASEAN cooperation, uphold peace and stability in the South China Sea, support Palestinians in their cause to liberation, safeguard free trade and multilateralism and jointly advance the interests of developing nations.
As China and Indonesia are battling the COVID-19 outbreak, our presidents have exchanged multiple phone calls and letters to offer sympathies and mutual support, and jointly attended the G20 Summit on COVID-19. When China was in the depths of this outbreak, it received cordial sympathies and generous donations from the Indonesian government and people across the society.
The Chinese side, in return, has spared no effort in helping Indonesia’s fight against the pandemic by providing much-needed medical supplies and sharing best experience and practice on prevention and treatment. A friend in need is a friend indeed. Our action once again testifies to our profound friendship of solidarity and mutual assistance in times of adversity.
For seven decades, our relationship has kept surging forward; for seven decades, we striven forward with one heart and one mind. The world today is undergoing profound changes. China is now working to build a moderately prosperous society in all respects, while Indonesia endeavors to become one of the world’s fifth largest economies.
China-Indonesia relations now stand at a new starting point, facing new opportunities. As remarked by President Xi in his congratulatory letter to President Jokowi, China and Indonesia share extensive common interests at bilateral, regional and multilateral levels and enormous potential for future cooperation.
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We should continue to promote high-level exchanges and bring forward bilateral relations from a strategic and long-term perspective. While promoting greater synergy between BRI and Global Maritime Fulcrum, practical cooperation shall be broadened to even more sectors, all to the benefit of the two peoples.
We look forward to stronger exchanges covering culture, education, religion and youth to bring our friendship closer and pass it on from generation to generation. Stronger coordination on global and regional issues is needed to shape a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation and to build a community with a shared future for mankind.
Jauh di mata, dekat di hati (Though living far, it is close to my heart). Chinese tradition advocates peace is more precious than anything else. Chinese people seek good neighborliness and harmony among all nations. Likewise, Indonesia advocates musyawarah (consensus), Bhinneka Tunggal Ika (Unity in Diversity) and gotong royong (mutual cooperation). I believe with such similar cultural genes,
China and Indonesia will surely enjoy sound relations built on equal footing and mutual respect, as well as understand and accommodate each other and seek common ground while shelving differences and ushering in a new era for bilateral ties featuring win-win cooperation.
Ambassador of People’s Republic of China to Indonesia
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.