Indian Ocean Indonesia Strategic Analysis Paper Tech

Indonesia’s Regional Security and Perceived Long-Term Threats – Part One: China

Indonesia’s Regional Security and Perceived Long-Term Threats – Part One: China

Key Factors

  • The world that China claims within the South China Sea crosses into the northern reaches of Indonesia’s Unique Financial Zone. Exploitation of that space by China might injury Indonesia’s financial system.
  • Indonesia must bolster its naval drive whether it is to make sure the safety of its waters within the occasion of a maritime battle.
  • Indonesia has been cautious in accepting Chinese language funding, however there are nonetheless considerations that these financial ties might result in Indonesia handing over political energy.
  • Sustaining the connection with China will probably be particularly necessary to protect dialogue and keep away from escalations within the South China Sea.
  • Bilateral ties with China might be threatened by political divisions and ethnic tensions in Indonesia, in addition to Beijing’s remedy of Uighur Muslims.


China is probably an important financial associate for Indonesia, being each the second-largest investor within the nation and the main marketplace for exported items. Past financial ties, nevertheless, the connection with Beijing is comparatively weak and Jakarta typically sees China as a strategic problem. This paper seems at a few of the challenges that China may pose to Indonesia in the long run.


The South China Sea and “9-Sprint Line”

China’s makes an attempt to exert ever higher management over the South China Sea are maybe the obvious long-term safety concern for Indonesia. As might be seen within the map under, China makes use of the so-called “9-Sprint Line” to stipulate its territorial declare over a lot of the South China Sea. That declare consists of a good portion (round 83,000 sq. kilometres) of Indonesia’s Unique Financial Zone (EEZ), mendacity to the north of the Natuna Islands. The waters surrounding the Natuna Islands include worthwhile oil and fuel fields in addition to just lately established fishing grounds.

By cementing its presence within the South China Sea, China threatens Indonesian sovereignty over that space, and has already resulted in financial injury from situations of unlawful, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing in Indonesia’s EEZ. In a bid to discourage potential future incursions from China, Indonesia has just lately taken steps to strengthen its sovereignty within the area. These measures embrace establishing a army base on Natuna Besar Island, renaming the EEZ north of the Natuna Islands because the North Natuna Sea and establishing fishing grounds within the northern waters.

Whereas the direct implications of China’s rising management within the area are primarily financial for Indonesia, the danger that some future regional dispute may escalate to a army battle can also be a priority. Within the context of the South China Sea, america and different Western nations often embark on “freedom of navigation” workouts. Throughout these workouts, the US Navy, for example, would sail inside twelve nautical miles of Chinese language-claimed synthetic islands with out prior discover or authorisation. China has reacted strongly to these workouts by growing its army build-up on the synthetic islands. It has additionally lately deployed DF-26 intermediate ballistic missiles, able to sinking US ships, to the South China Sea. Escalating battle within the South China Sea might have wider implications for maritime safety and threaten the safe sea strains of communications, which Indonesia depends upon for the majority of its oil and fuel imports.

To mitigate that potential maritime menace, Indonesia is spending vital sums to broaden its naval capabilities. Based on Dr Peter Chalk, an unbiased worldwide safety analyst and maritime safety skilled, Indonesia would wish 300 vessels working across the clock to adequately shield and monitor its three million sq. kilometres of archipelagic waters.[1] The Indonesian Navy (TNI-AL), nevertheless, solely has roughly 178 vessels in lively service. It’s aiming to have as much as 274 craft in service by 2024 underneath the Minimal Important Drive (MEF) programme, however it’s extremely unlikely that that focus on might be achieved, given the various challenges surrounding the programme, together with price range constraints and administration points.

The deliberate enlargement of the Indonesian submarine fleet might assist to offset weaknesses ensuing from low ship numbers within the TNI-AL. Indonesia just lately acquired the second of three Nagapasa-class submarines (Sort 209/1400) from South Korea, which can function alongside two German Cakra-class submarines (Sort 209/1300) from the 1980s. Underneath the MEF programme, the plan was to have a minimum of twelve submarines operational by 2024, however that has since been revised down to 10.

Within the context of the South China Sea dispute, a formidable submarine drive can be useful if tensions escalate into army confrontation between China and the US. First, submarines act as a drive multiplier, as a single hidden submarine warrants a disproportionate response from the opposing navy. If army confrontations escalate, the specter of undetected submarines patrolling the waters surrounding the Natuna Islands might work to discourage a Chinese language army presence in these waters, despite the fact that the TNI-AL can be dwarfed by the Chinese language navy, which is the world’s second-largest. Second, submarines are efficient instruments of sea denial and sea management, which might be necessary in safeguarding very important chokepoints, such because the Malacca Strait, from makes an attempt by overseas navies to regulate or blockade them. Lastly, submarines can be utilized for covert operations rather more successfully than floor ships, permitting Indonesia to take care of a better watch over China’s actions within the South China Sea. Additionally it is value noting that China’s current developments in anti-submarine warfare capabilities point out that Beijing recognises submarine fleets as a big menace to its management of the area’s waters.

Is China an Financial Menace?

In a ballot carried out in 2017, 22.7% of Indonesian respondents named China because the nation that poses the most important menace to Indonesia. The general public notion of a possible Chinese language menace, nevertheless, shouldn’t be essentially modelled within the sense of a standard army menace. As famous by Trissia Wijaya, a doctoral candidate at Murdoch College, some Indonesians view their nation’s financial ties with China as a unfavourable drive. They worry that these ties might give the Chinese language Authorities the facility to exert its affect over their nation. That concern, whether or not actual or imagined, can also be strengthened by misinformation campaigns surrounding numerous high-profile infrastructure tasks funded by China. Moreover, in the course of the current election marketing campaign, a number of politicians additionally stirred anti-Chinese language rhetoric in makes an attempt to bolster their very own help bases and weaken incumbent President Jokowi.

An instance that’s extensively cited by critics of Chinese language funding is the Hambantota port in Sri Lanka. In December 2017, Sri Lanka granted to China a 99-year lease of Hambantota port and 60 sq. kilometres of surrounding land. The handover, which was accomplished in December 2017, got here after the Sri Lankan Authorities had did not repay the mounting money owed owed to Chinese language companies for serving to to construct the port. As famous in a earlier Strategic Weekly Evaluation, whereas the port itself was a business failure, its shut proximity to India and to very important delivery routes raised considerations that it might probably be utilized by China for army functions. For that to occur, nevertheless, the Sri Lankan Authorities must revise agreements that forbid such use by the Chinese language army. Present plans for the port have the Sri Lankan Navy overseeing safety and operations. In the course of the presidential election marketing campaign, such examples lent credence to the enterprise by Prabowo Subianto that, if elected, he would reassess Indonesia’s funding offers with China.

Based on Nithin Coca writing in World Politics Assessment, Indonesia has been cautious in its dealings with Chinese language buyers. He commented:

A lot of the offers prioritise the position of Indonesian state-owned enterprises, whereas limiting the power of China to import staff. Additionally they don’t contain delicate infrastructure that would put the nation susceptible to dropping its sovereignty.

An instance of that warning was seen just lately, when Indonesia provided China funding tasks value $127.5 billion, however with 4 strict phrases hooked up. In accordance with these phrases, buyers needed to: adhere to requirements for environmentally pleasant practices; use native labour on the tasks; facilitate know-how switch to native companions; and the tasks should convey financial profit to Indonesia. On the similar time, nevertheless, Indonesia has to stability that warning with the pressing have to safe infrastructure funding. Procuring extra funding for infrastructure tasks is significant for the long-term progress of the Indonesian financial system, however funding ranges are at present falling brief of what’s required. Poor infrastructure throughout the Indonesian archipelago has additionally contributed to the lack of billions of dollars annually on account of decrease charges of GDP progress.

Sustaining the Bilateral Relationship

Within the medium-to-long-term, will probably be essential for the Indonesian Authorities to maintain the connection with China, as a big deterioration might heighten safety dangers; particularly if the dialogue on potential maritime disputes is undermined. Sustaining that relationship, nevertheless, might be troublesome given the numerous affect that home politics exerts on Indonesia’s relationship with China. Internally, there are three political elements that would injury the connection, as examined in a current FDI Strategic Evaluation Paper.

First, there’s a divide amongst political teams, that are seen as being both pro- or anti-China. That has led to anti-Chinese language rhetoric from politicians on the far finish of the anti-China spectrum being extensively circulated throughout social media teams. One such instance is from former TNI Commander Gatot Nurmantyo, who informed college college students in 2016 that if Chinese language refugees come right down to take over South-East Asia, he would: ‘butcher 10 cows in the midst of the ocean. The sharks will certainly collect… After that I’ll shoot at them, simply through the use of small weapons so the boat will leak, they usually all may be eaten by the sharks’. Such feedback will undoubtedly trigger a specific amount of unease amongst Chinese language officers concerning the attainable future state of the connection, particularly if these within the anti-China camp achieve extra political affect.

Second, the excessive ranges of financial inequality in Indonesia have the potential to gasoline ethnic violence. Ethnic tensions in Indonesia have been most obvious shortly after the Asian Monetary Disaster and the collapse of the Suharto Authorities in 1998. Throughout that interval, a variety of elements, together with financial elements, contributed to resentment towards Chinese language Indonesians. That led to riots through which protesters looted and burned Chinese language-owned outlets, with reviews of householders being murdered and raped. At present, ethnic tensions proceed to simmer under the floor and, whereas these tensions have lessened significantly, there have been current flare-ups. On 2 December 2016, a whole lot of hundreds of Muslims gathered to protest towards the Governor of Jakarta, a Chinese language Christian who was accused of blasphemy. Through the protests, a transparent undercurrent of resentment in the direction of the ethnic Chinese language populace was on show. As famous by Future Instructions Worldwide, nevertheless, whereas comparable, smaller, outbursts should happen, it’s extremely unlikely that ethnic violence will erupt on a scale corresponding to that seen in 1998. Nonetheless, Beijing will maintain reservations concerning the remedy of ethnic Chinese language in Indonesia.

Lastly, China’s remedy of Uighur Muslims in its far-western Xinjiang province has the potential to antagonise the connection. Whereas Indonesia has not but voiced a robust response, it might turn into a future keynote problem for the Indonesian Overseas Ministry, a lot because the Palestinian concern is in the present day. Indonesia’s longstanding help for the Palestinian individuals primarily stems from their widespread faith and shared experiences. In each nations, nearly all of the inhabitants follows the Shafi’i faculty of Sunni Islam. Indonesia additionally has a historical past of dealing with and overcoming oppression, having skilled Dutch colonial rule and Japanese occupation. From the attitude of many Indonesians, their Muslim brothers and sisters are being oppressed by a non-Muslim energy, simply as they have been prior to now.

Some similarities may be drawn between the plight of the Palestinian individuals and the Uighurs: nearly all of Uighurs are Sunni Muslims, though they historically comply with the Hanafi faculty of Sunni Islam and have incessantly been in battle with the Shafi’i. They see themselves as being oppressed by a non-Muslim authorities and it may be argued that their plight is a product of inner colonialism. Within the run-up to the election, the Uighur problem was taken up as a rallying cry towards Jokowi by opposition politicians, who accused him of being a Chinese language sympathiser.


Whereas there are a selection of long-term considerations for Indonesia’s relationship with China, the abovementioned areas of attainable future battle usually are not inevitable. As Future Instructions Worldwide has noticed, the Indonesia-China relationship is, at its core, based mostly on mutually-beneficial foundations. Working to keep away from growing the areas of stress shall be useful for each nations, though maybe extra so for Indonesia. Jakarta will thus search to proceed constructing its financial ties with Beijing to acquire additional funding and keep the buying and selling ties which might be very important to the Indonesian financial system.



[1] Chalk, P., ‘The Maritime Dimension of Worldwide Safety: Terrorism, Piracy and Challenges for the USA’, Rand Company, 2008, p. 12.

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