China: the head of diplomacy meets with the Indonesian president and his successor

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met Indonesian President Joko Widodo and his successor Prabowo Subianto on Thursday in Jakarta, as Beijing seeks to strengthen its regional influence. These meetings follow Prabowo Subianto’s visit to Beijing in early April, during which Chinese President Xi Jinping praised relations with Jakarta, setting out a vision for regional peace amid tensions between Beijing and other Southeast Asian neighbors, including the Philippines, over the disputed South China Sea.

Currently Minister of Defense, Prabowo Subianto won the presidential election in the first round in February. He expressed support for developing closer ties with Beijing. Wang Yi also spoke with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi earlier Thursday before visiting outgoing President Joko Widodo, nicknamed Jokowi, at the Presidential Palace and then visiting Prabowo Jokowi at the Defense Ministry.

China a creditor but criticized

Retno Marsudi said Joko Widodo and Wang Yi expressed their desire for regional peace and stability and reiterated their calls for de-escalation and a ceasefire in Gaza between the Israeli army and Hamas. “Mr. President stressed that no one wanted an escalation,” she stressed to the press at the end of the meeting. The Chinese foreign minister will then chair a meeting of the China-Indonesia high-level dialogue and cooperation mechanism on Friday, before traveling to Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.

China is one of the main sources of foreign direct investment (FDI) in Indonesia, an archipelago of nearly 280 million inhabitants. Indonesia’s foreign policy is generally neutral but Jakarta finds itself in a delicate diplomatic situation facing Beijing and Washington, who disagree over trade, Ukraine, the Middle East, Taiwan and the South China Sea. Chinese companies have pumped billions into Indonesia’s natural resource exploitation in recent years, particularly nickel. However, salary and working conditions on processing sites financed by China are criticized. In 2023, Jakarta notably inaugurated the first high-speed train line in Southeast Asia, a multi-billion dollar project supported by Beijing.

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