Xi Jinping seeks Jokowi’s support in keeping region open and inclusive

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (left) and Chinese President Xi Jinping

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday (July 26) sought Indonesia’s support in upholding “open regionalism”, as Beijing steps up efforts against Washington’s push to marshal regional countries against China.

“China and Indonesia should help each other and demonstrate the responsibility of major developing countries, practice true multilateralism, adhere to open regionalism, and provide oriental wisdom and Asian strength to advance global governance,” said Xi.

Widodo, as president of the Group of 20 (G-20) this year, extended an invitation to Xi to attend the grouping’s summit, which will be held in Bali in November. A joint statement from both countries said the Chinese leader had expressed his thanks, although no firm response from Xi was given.

“There is a possibility that Xi Jinping will attend in person but the final decision has not been made yet. There are a lot of uncertainties with the pandemic,” said Dr Xu Liping, director of the Centre for South-east Asian Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

“But if the pandemic situation does not worsen, I think there is a good chance of this happening.”

Xi’s attendance at the G-20 summit would be a big coup for Indonesia. Xi has not left China since around the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Experts say China sees Indonesia, which will also chair the Asean regional bloc next year, as a key partner in ensuring Asean and the wider region remains neutral amid intensifying geopolitical rivalry between Beijing and Washington.

“Indonesia can play a very important role in keeping the region open and inclusive in this complex international situation… Look at the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), it’s very obvious that this is an effort to exclude some countries,” said Dr Xu, referring to the Biden administration’s initiative to engage countries in the region. IPEF is seen as a move to curb China’s economic influence in the region.

In his opening remarks before the meeting, Widodo had said he hoped to discuss various areas of cooperation including in trade, investment, infrastructure, finance, and maritime areas.

“The opportunity to increase the amount of trade is very large,” he said.

In his meeting with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, both sides discussed boosting bilateral trade, according to a statement by Indonesia’s presidential secretariat.

Beijing committed to increase imports of crude palm oil from Indonesia by one million tonnes and prioritize imports of agricultural produce from the country.

China is Indonesia’s largest trading partner, with two-way trade hitting US$110 billion (S$153 billion) last year, according to Indonesian trade figures. Beijing is also Jakarta’s third-largest investor, with total investment reaching US$3.2 billion.



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