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Jakarta Post

Money can be easily earned but not friendship: President Xi Jinping

  • Margareth S. Aritonang

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Fri, October 4, 2013   /  10:40 am
Money can be easily earned but not friendship: President Xi Jinping Day at the museum: Chinese President Xi Jinping (front left) and First Lady Peng Liyuan (right) visit the National Museum in Jakarta on Thursday to see an exhibition of photos about Indonesia-China relations. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira) (front left) and First Lady Peng Liyuan (right) visit the National Museum in Jakarta on Thursday to see an exhibition of photos about Indonesia-China relations. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Day at the museum: Chinese President Xi Jinping (front left) and First Lady Peng Liyuan (right) visit the National Museum in Jakarta on Thursday to see an exhibition of photos about Indonesia-China relations. (JP/Ricky Yudhistira)

Members of the House of Representatives cheerfully applauded when Chinese President Xi Jinping used an Indonesian proverb to describe his country'€™s aim to forge strong friendships with its neighbors including Indonesia.

Legislators also looked excited when the Chinese leader cited the famous '€œBengawan Solo'€ song while emphasizing his commitment to strengthen bilateral relations between the two countries.

'€œAs the Indonesian proverb says, money can be easily earned but not friendship,'€ the smiling president told legislators during a special plenary session at the House on Thursday morning.

The Chinese leader and his entourage arrived on Wednesday for a two-day state visit. He met with his host President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono soon after his arrival. Indonesia severed diplomatic ties with China in 1967 and the two countries agreed to restore relations in 1990.

On China'€™s ties with Indonesia, Xi pointed out, '€œLike the flow of the Bengawan Solo River, China-Indonesia relations have also gone through a curved and complicated journey,'€ citing lyrics from the keroncong (traditional Javanese rhythmic music) song '€œBengawan Solo'€ created by composer Gesang in the 1940s.

It was the first time the House had hosted such a ceremony for a foreign dignitary. Xi clearly chose Jakarta to deliver his message to Indonesia and other members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) because the secretariat of the regional grouping is located in Jakarta and due to Indonesia being the largest member of the organization. Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines have overlapping territorial claims with China in the South China Sea.

Xi spoke in Mandarin, and the House provided simultaneous translation for the audience. Unfortunately, the devices were not functioning properly and the guests were generally unable to hear the translation. Only about 30 percent of the 560 members of the House were present. The government was represented by Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa and Trade Minister Gita Wirjawan.

Xi repeatedly emphasized the cooperation between China and Indonesia, how the relationship has benefitted both countries as well as their larger role in Asia and the world.

He recalled efforts to improve diplomatic ties between the two countries, including cooperation in the construction of the Suramadu Bridge linking East Java and Madura Island, as well as the construction of the 90,000 hectare Jati Gede Dam in West Java.

The president, however, did not directly refer to the South China Sea issue. He emphasized the importance of relations between China and ASEAN members.

'€œChina is willing to strengthen maritime coordination and fully utilize the China-ASEAN Maritime Cooperation Fund, which was initiated by the Chinese government in order to accelerate our maritime partnership,'€ said Xi in an apparent indication of his government'€™s preference for peaceful solutions to territorial disputes.

Xi apparently also wanted to please Yudhoyono by citing the lyrics from Yudhoyono'€™s song, '€œHening'€ (Solitude), to further highlight the bilateral friendship.

'€œThe magnificent view around the Lijiang River had inspired President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to compose the song. This highlights once again that we share the same sentiment. We are inspired by similar things,'€ Xi noted.

The Chinese head of state left Indonesia on Thursday, but will return next week to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Bali.

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