Politik Internasional

Strengthening and Building Constructive Relations through People-to-People Relations (Volume 3)

Kategori: World Politics
Ditulis oleh Nanto Sriyanto Dilihat: 1250

By Nanto Sriyanto [2]

Compatibility and Complementarity of The 21st Maritime Silk Road and Global Maritime Fulcrum Policy

The 21st Maritime Silk Road) may come first into familiarity in Indonesian audience when President Xi Jinping gave his speech in front of Indonesia’s Parliament in October 2013 (Zhao 2015: 3). On the other hand, Global Maritime Fulcrum, which becomes tagline since Jokowi ran his presidency campaign, may emerge as new concept for Indonesian (Sambhi 2015: 40). Nevertheless explanation of the idea of creating “sea toll” by President Jokowi as building logistic system that connecting islands in the archipelago seems similar to extension of previous idea of “Pendulum Nusantara” by Pelindo (2012) (Panennungi 2015: 6). However both policies could be considered as similar. Not only the two policies are about to create prosperity but also to connect people closer together.

The 21st Maritime Silk Road is basically about uniting and expanding the common interest between China and other countries located along the route. The policy will concern on activating potential growth and achieve mutual benefits in wider areas. Consequentially the 21st MSR will connect China’s port with other countries through maritime connectivity, intercity cooperation and economic cooperation (Liu 2014). This maritime route will span from port in southern coast of China through Red Sea then reach the Mediterranean Sea in which it will meet the land-based Silk Road in Venice. Thus there will be two elements of Silk Road. The first one is the Maritime Silk Road that channels the port in coastal countries from China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Middle East, Africa and Europe. The second one is “Silk Road Economic Belt” that will connecting the city and states from China across Central Asia and Middle East to Europe (Zhao 2015: 2). In the Maritime Silk Road, Indonesia will become one important partner since the archipelago has important sea-route in the connectivity scheme. The decision of President Xi Jinping to give speech in front of Indonesian Parliament about the 21st Maritime Silk Road symbolically shows the important position of Indonesia under the China’s plan (Zhao 2015: 22).

In his speech in front of Indonesian Parliament, President Xi Jinping addresses five areas that required attention. In his brief, President Xi Jinping emphasizes the needs and supporting principles required in the proposing policy. It includes trust; win-win solution; principle of assisting and supporting among all the participant countries; enhancement of mutual understanding and friendship; and finally the principle of openness and inclusiveness. President Xi understands that the proposal he brings will need support from China’s surrounding neighbor. The Maritime Silk road also, as he elaborates further, will include the aspect of multiculturalism since it will embrace countries from wide-ranging region and different cultural background (Xi 2103).

The proposal has an element of history in it, since it will recreate the successful of ancient China during the kingdom era. Not only in a sense of recreating the trade route of Admiral Zheng He but also it should notice that the intended route of the 21st Maritime Silk Road in the ancient time was recorded as prosperous zone before those ports and city were dominated by colonization (Panennungi 2015: 5-6). There is optimism that the ancient spirit could be reinvigorated (Yang 2015), nevertheless there is also skepticism about the lack of fundamental spirit of ancient silk road compare to the modern maritime silk road (Koh 2015).

Comparison to the China’s policy of maritime Silk Road is the US Marshal Plan (Tiezzi 2014). The two similar in several aspect of economic support for the participating countries, while the important aspect that distinguishes the Maritime Silk Road from the US program for European countries in the aftermath of World War II is the first policy will involve of promotion of economic development in 60 countries. The cost for implementing the Maritime Silk Road will exceed far compare to the US Marshal Plan and also has higher potential risk (Zhao 2015: 3). Another important thing that could be overlooked by China in implementing her strategy is that she needs giving more priority in building good-neighborliness with all those countries involved in the policy (Zhao 2015: 1).

On the other hand, Maritime Global fulcrum is a concept proposed by President Jokowi in order to reinvigorate Indonesian maritime spirit. Indonesian has been too long abandoned their maritime culture. In Southeast Asian Summit Meeting, President Jokowi addresses the five pillars of Global Maritime Fulcrum: The first one is on rebuilding Indonesia’s maritime culture by increasing awareness of its population about the ocean as part of their integral identity. It also means fostering an awareness that from better management of their territorial water could become the source of prosperity. Therefore comes the second one that concern on improving Indonesian management of maritime resources, focus on food security based on fishing industry. The thirds pillar is about building maritime infrastructure and connectivity among islands in the archipelago. Under this pillar comes “the sea toll” accompanied by improving and building new ports as well as building shipping industry and marine tourism. The fourth pillar focuses on maritime diplomacy in order to eliminate conflicts caused by illegal fishing, sovereignty breaches, territorial disputes, piracy, and marine pollution. Finally the fifth pillar deals with aspect maritime defense forces in order to maintain security and navigation safety around the waters in the archipelago (Sambhi 2015: 41; Witular 2014).

All the five pillars are interconnected to each other. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, a professor research who also serves as deputy secretary for political affairs to Vice President Jusuf Kalla, agreed on the explanation that global maritime fulcrum contains an element of foreign policy, as well as an economic development strategy, while at the same time an aspect of defense strategy (Heriyanto 2015). Beside the five pillars, President Jokowi in many occasions emphasizes that his administration will put the interest of Indonesian people at the center of his program. In foreign policy affairs, He calls for the so-called “grounded diplomacy” where the high interaction among the people should serve at the center of his strategy. Jokowi’s idea is further elaborated in Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi central elements of Indonesian diplomacy as “a diplomacy that is resolute and dignified, pro-people and grounded in public interest” (Lalisang 2014).

In this respect, the Global Maritime Fulcrum and the 21st Maritime Silk Road could be considered as complimentary and mutually supporting. In accordance to the opinion, Foreign Minister Wang Yi on 2 November 2014 commented that both ideas are aiming at increasing maritime connectivity and strengthening the capacity of the participant countries in securing and managing maritime resources, while security stability will not be left behind. In a comment President Jokowi agrees that “the two strategy highly fit with each other” (Zhao 2015: 23).

It was significant that it was in Jakarta in October 2013 that Chinese President Xi announced the initiative of the new Maritime Silk Road. This indicated that China views Indonesia as an anchor for its Maritime Silk Road Strategy. On 2 November 2014, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Jakarta and met Jokowi and Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi. Mr Wang suggested that Jokowi’s vision of Indonesia as a maritime fulcrum could complement Beijing’s new Maritime Silk Road, as the plan aims to strengthen maritime connectivity and enhance the capacity of countries in Southeast Asia to maximize security and the management of maritime resources. China would participate actively in Indonesia’s aim to be a maritime power, largely by assisting with infrastructure development. President Jokowi commented that “Indonesia is on the way of developing into a maritime power, while China proposes to build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century; the two initiatives highly fit with each other”. (Zhao 2015: 22-23). In accordance to his administration principle in serving the interest of the people, President Jokowi added, "so long as the principle of sovereignty is safeguarded and the people benefit, we can work together." (Hussein 2014).

Subsequently the two strategies should not only work in area of infrastructure investment such as port and maritime industry, but another important aspect is about preparing for highly interaction of people from various countries with different cultural background. Investment for Indonesia to build the infrastructure needed will cost high numbers of fund, whereas the China’s plan will cost much higher fund to invest. Indonesian program will require foreign investment in supporting minimum national budget, while on the contrary China as the initiator of the Maritime Silk Road has more capability in supporting the financial needs for the interesting countries participate in her program (Rahadiana and Chatterjee 2014; China Daily, 5 November 2014).

The plan of Maritime Silk Road are great will involve 17.9 percent of China total trade, while aspect of people-to-people exchanges will create more opportunity of multicultural interaction of more than 15 million between China and ASEAN alone (Liu 2014). In total area of the 21st Silk Road it will cover total population 3 billion people. China’s Ministry of Commerce estimates it will involve 26% percent of total China’s foreign trade (Clover and Hornby 2015). At the current time, people in China and ASEAN have been connected by more than 1,000 flights. The picture could be more complex if another mode of transportation is added to the description since many people in the region remain attach to marine and river transportation. Cooperation on the municipal level has reached 140 twin cities established between ASEAN and China (Do and Ha 2015: 88-89). Therefore, in order to achieve the successful reinvigoration of the ancient time, statement of President Xi that asserts, "amity between people holds the key to sound relations between states", and the "amity between people mainly relies on the youth” (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of PRC 07 April 2015) should be the focus on the two strategies.

IV. People to People Relations as Crucial Factor for the 21st Maritime Strategy and Global Maritime Fulcrum


During the 65th anniversary of Indonesia-China diplomatic relations, Soegeng Rahardjo, Indonesian ambassador in Beijing, comments "With the establishment of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in October 2013, the Indonesia-China cooperation is today at its highest level ever" (Du and Ma 2015 in People’s Daily Online 27 April 2015). On another celebration of the 66th Chinese National Day Reception in Jakarta, Xie Feng, Ambassador of People Republic of China to Indonesia marks the recent diplomatic relations between the countries as “the best shape in history”. Ambassador Xie Feng treasures high official communications between the two countries that have been channels through high frequency of visits. Communication between China and Indonesia are represented from high-level leaders to people-to-people relations that communicate through people-to-people mechanism (PEM). Ambassador Xie also adds that, “political-security ties, business cooperation, and people-to-people exchanges have become the “troika” driving forward the China-Indonesia partnership” (Embassy of the People's Republic of China in the Republic of Indonesia 29 September 2009).

Indonesia-China Relations nowadays has also brought into the center the role of public diplomacy and soft power. Public diplomacy for China is gaining prominent role, as it noted by President Hu Jintao “public diplomacy and cultural exchanges should be pushed forward” (Hu 2012). Its salient role is to explain China to the world, to create the favorable image of China, and also to support achievement of national interest (Hartig 2015: 58). Since then public diplomacy has been integrated with the Chinese national strategy, it also incorporated local public diplomacy which emphasizing different local characteristic at the city or provincial level. Moreover, another form of public diplomacy also spread up in several universities by establishing public diplomacy institute (Han 2013).

Survey on 2008 based on ‘Soft Power Index” on economic, cultural, human capital, political and diplomatic shown that China’s overall soft power on Indonesia (0.70) was rank second to Vietnam (0.74), (on a 0 to 1 scale). People in the surveyed countries highly regarded the Chinese cultural heritage while at the same time they did not consider the contemporary Chinese pop culture as appealing. Number of Indonesian respondents were reported had “never” or “rarely” watch Chinese movies or television (d’Hooghe 2015: 348). The findings may have correlation with survey of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs that finds Indonesian respondents, along with Vietnamese respondents, consider highly on Chinese cultural heritage that they feels as have positive impact on their own societies (Whitney and Shambaugh 2009: 9).

Another potential of people-to-people relation that could convey fraternity of Indonesia-China relations is through education (Shambaugh 2005: 25). Number of total foreign student in China from 2004 to 2014 has increased. Number of Indonesian student since 2003 to 2013 have steadily increased which make it stays in top ten list foreign student in China. The table below shows the number of Indonesian student in China from 2004 to 2013. Brief comments on the data shown below is that it could indicate that international student come to study in China has increased three times in ten years, total number of Indonesian students are growing according to that path.

Number of Indonesian Student in China


Years Number of Indonesian Student

Percent of Total of

Foreign Student in China

2004   3.4%
2005 4,656 3.3%
2006 - -
2007 6,590 3.4%
2008 7,084 3.2%
2009 7,926 3.3%
2010 9,539 3.6%
2011 10,957 3.7%
2012 13,133 4.0%
2013 13,492 3.8%
Source: China Scholarship Council (CSC) cited in Project Atlass accessed at http://www.iie.org/Services/Project-Atlas/China/International-Students-In-China 17 September 2015

The number of Indonesian student in China is part of scholarship offered by Chinese government. There are also numerous self-funded Indonesian students come to study in China because of campaign from university in China. Until 2012 Education Exhibition of Study in China had been held ten times since 2003, which means it have become a yearly exhibition (Study-in-China 2013). Increasing number of Indonesian student, according to Education Attaché of Indonesian Embassy, was started in 2004 following the China’s progress in various fields including education (Antara 2012). The increasing trend of Indonesian student in China are following similar path of total international students in China since 2004 to 2010 (Yue 2013: 20). A large number of Indonesian student in China take Mandarin language (62%) as their major, though small number of them are now starting to take business or financial and also technical studies (Study-in-China 2013; Antara 2012). Of total number 7,926 students in 2009, the report from Ministry of Education of China shows that 63% of them took non-degree program, while 37% took degree program (Yue 2013: 21).

Although China does not considered as favorite destination for study abroad among annual 3,000 international Indonesian students (Irandoust 2014), year of 2004 become momentous since in that year Indonesian student granting visa to study to China was doubled than Indonesian student that obtained visa from the US (Kurlantzik 2006a: 3). Practical cooperation between two countries are expected to enhance the situation. Various scheme to increase the numbers include student exchange, language education, higher education and vocational training. Indonesia and China are also agreed to speed up the Mutual Recognition of Higher Education Degrees and Diplomas. Both Indonesia and China have their cultural center in several major cities in order to promote cultural understanding. Indonesia has opened Indonesian Studies Center in Beijing and Guangzhou, while reciprocally China have their Confucius Institute in promoting Chinese language (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the People's Republic of China

Indonesian First Lady Mrs. Ani Yudhoyono officially opened Indonesian Studies Center in Beijing for Foreign Language Studies University in March 2012 (Detiknews 14 March 2012). The second Indonesian Studies Centre is opened in Guangdong University of Foreign Studies (Rahardjo 2014). While in Indonesia, China has opened Confucius Institute in six cities in Indonesia (Hasanuddin University, Makassar; Malang State University, Malang; Maranatha Christian University, Bandung; Tanjungpura University, Pontianak; Universitas Negeri Surabaya, Surabaya; University of Al Azhar Indonesia, Jakarta) (Confucius Institutes Around the Globe http://confuciusinstitute.unl.edu/institutes.shtml). The increasing number of Confucius Institute will cover the shortage of some 100,000 Chinese language instructors (Kurlantzik 2006b: 275). In education sector, former President Yudhoyono on his general lecture in Tsinghua University 28 June 2015 commented positively on the development of education cooperation between Indonesia and China. He believes, “more Indonesian school and university students are becoming attracted to the idea of studying in China. This shows Indonesia’s interest to learn more from and to cooperate with China” (The Jakarta Post 28 June 2015).

In the tourism sector, growing economic in China has increased number of her people to travel abroad. By 2010, with increasing number of people travels for leisure, China remains the Asia’s largest source of outbound tourism. Because of the safety consideration, most of Chinese outbound tourists were remains reluctant to come to Indonesia. However the data showed a positive growth in comparing of doubling number from 2006 to number of tourist in 2007. To boost the number of Chinese to come to Bali, flight frequency and number of direct flight were to be increased (Wu 2011: 132). In 2006, Indonesian Culture and Tourism Ministry recorded that 200,000 Indonesian tourists visited China; while at the same time Chinese tourist came to Indonesia was recorded at 182,341 (Wu 2011: 133). Chinese tourist among the top three tourist origin countries in Bali, along with Australia and Japan in 2013 (Ghani et al. 2013: 15).

Another interesting fact that could become the channel for people-to-people relations is Indonesian Chinese. China’s growing economic capability and leading position in regional and the world has affected the perception and position of ethnic Chinese in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, along with democratization process, ethnic Chinese also have been wider role in social political lives. They begin to involve in political lives and also give input to Indonesian government in strengthening Indonesia-China relations (Kurlantnzik 2006b: 275). Indonesian Chinese plays a key role in promoting Indonesia in China and serves as a bridge between two business societies (Wu 2011: 131). So far, public perception on China’s growing economy is considered positive for Indonesian economy (55%) rather than threatening it (28%). Surveys on China’s image among Indonesian also growing positive, included the opinion on respecting people’s rights (43% agreed) (Pew Research Center July 2014).

In comparison to other countries, Indonesian perceives China more positively. On a survey by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Indonesian respondents give highest score to cultural soft power of China (0.62 on index of scale 0 to 1) compare to the US, Japan and South Korea. In diplomatic and economic soft power, Indonesian respondents put China equals with the US (0.69), while give highest score to Japan. On human capital index, China is positioned as number three (0.74), while the US as number one (0.91) (Whitey and Shambaugh 2014: 35-36). There is an interesting finding from the survey. China’s regional diplomacy is perceived positive by Indonesian and Vietnamese, yet by respondents from Japan, South Korea, and the US give low score on idea of China’s world order. Another point from the survey is large of the respondent have acknowledged China’s emerging economy and therefore has strong sense of attractiveness towards them while at the same time they have not heard of China’s concept of “harmonious world” (Whitey and Shambaugh 2014: 17). At this point, it seems that people-to-people relations between Indonesia and China will take times to bear the fruitful efforts, since youth exchange program will have future impact. At the current time it could be noted that there are large number of people need to be assured of positive relations between Indonesia and China.


65 years of Indonesia-China relations have travelled trough turbulence time since the first time they open embassies. From the beginning, history of the relations shows that there are elements of identity between the two countries. The Bandung Conference has cemented Indonesia and China fraternity as Asian countries aspiring for prosperity for their people. Solidarity of Asia-African countries has proven as solid basis not only at the beginning of their relationship, but also when it needs to resume the suspended relations. On many occasions, leader from Indonesia and China keep reminding the important of the principles of the Bandung Conference, especially principle of co-existence and co-prosperity that still relevant to these days.

However the two countries have also undergone and faced a hard challenge during their diplomatic relations. A long history of relations between the two countries far beyond the relationship of state. There already Chinese people in the archipelago since the ancient period. When nation state is established under post-colonial trauma, it brings with him the problem of nation building. The problem seems beyond the signing of an agreement, since we have witnessed that Premier Chou En-Lai and Foreign Minister Sunaryo Sastrowardoyo had given the solid basis for the two nations to solve the problem on 22 April 1955. In this respect, the problem of Indonesian Chinese is part of bigger challenges for Indonesia to build a multicultural and inclusive nation. It has proven by democratization that has helped Indonesia to reach more “manageable” multicultural nation as it is today. Changing perception of Indonesian towards them has been fostered during President Wahid ran his administration. President Wahid has put the big problem looks like easy by giving up exclusion and beginning an inclusive approach, not only towards Indonesian Chinese actually. At the same time, China has managed to keep the problem into more mature since she see the problem as domestic problem of young nation like Indonesia.

It is important to note, along the 65 years of friendship between Indonesia and China, the healthy fraternity is reached when Indonesia has with her democratic system. The first phase is parliamentarian democracy and the current time is reformation era- or post-transitional period. While at the same time there is supporting international system favorable for cooperation among countries in the world. Indonesia and China experience the Bandung Conference not as revisionist power but to aspiring the needs for peaceful coexistence and co-prosperity. In the 21st century, we once again witness that opportunity with the stability of East Asian strategic environment


Democratization have brought blessed in Indonesia to become more active in foreign policy, since Indonesian public diplomacy actively includes all elements of the nation. On the other hand, China has experience tremendous growth that brings all the element of the nation to actively together to support the growing prosperity. The growing changes in Indonesia and China have changed perception towards each other. Indonesia is no longer seeing China as a threatening nation, while China has experienced Indonesia as important counterpart in achieving prosperity. Here we witnessed the opportunity of people-to-people relations between two nations. Since the signing two strategic agreements, Strategic Partnership and Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, highly traffic of diplomacies has become daily routine between the two countries. Leaders from both countries have frequently met. In the context of mutually supporting of the 21st Maritime Silk Road and Global Maritime Fulcrum, both countries have great common interest.

However along with the prosperity and high diplomatic mission, both countries are not only be represented by their elite leaders but also by ordinary people who become diplomat for their respective countries. Highly official diplomacy remains important but now it has important counterpart in different level. The 21st Maritime Silk Road and Global Maritime Fulcrum has potential challenges not to reinvigorate the past, but on how to prepare the people for their maximum potential. In this case, China and Indonesia have a hard work ahead of them. Since the reinvigoration of the past might have potential collision without adequate familiarity between the people.

[2] Researcher on Foreign Policy and International Security Issues at Center for Political Studies Indonesian Institute of Science (P2P LIPI) Jakarta.