In April, the bilateral relations between China and Indonesia have entered a long period, exactly 71 years since the two countries synergized. However, in recent years in the era of President Jokowi, this relationship has become increasingly clear and intimate, either in the economic, political, defense and cultural fields.
Moreover, when the world was disturbed by the Covid-19 pandemic which had lasted for approximately 1 year, the relationship between Indonesia and China continued and had even entered a new chapter. For example, cooperation in vaccines to reduce the spread of the virus from China and Beijing has expressed its support for Indonesia to be a ‘regional vaccine production center’.
In a Virtual Press conference last month the Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia also stated “The China-Indonesia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Relationship has not stopped, it has achieved new developments,” said Xiao Qian.
However, what is interesting and is rarely known by people is that the cooperation between Indonesia and China is not only between G to G and B to B, but this cooperation is also forged between several political parties in Indonesia and the Chinese Communist Party.
Indonesian parties and the Chinese Communist Party
It cannot be denied that the ties between Indonesia and China are not only at the state level, this closeness is also at the level between political parties in Indonesia and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). It is known that there are 5 Indonesian political parties that have cooperative relationships with the CCP, these parties are major parties such as the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDIP), the Great Indonesia Movement (Gerindra), Democrats, Golongan Karya (Golkar), the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) .
According to Zhang Xuyi’s Deputy Director of the International Department of the Central Committee Communist Party of China in 2014, the CCP paid great attention to the development of politics in Indonesia, especially after the elections in 2014 which won Jokowi and Jusuf Kalla.
The cooperative relationship that exists between Indonesian political parties and the CCP is quite diverse, for example a meeting held by Golkar officials and CCP officials in 2008 which ended with the signing of a Memorandum of Understand (MoU) covering all matters related to regeneration and party organizing. After that, meetings between high-ranking officials of the two parties have still been organised several times in Beijing and Jakarta.
Responding to critics, a cadre representative from the Golkar party said the cooperation with the CCP would not change the party’s ideology.
According to a Golkar politician, Ace Hasan Syadzily, not only Golkar but all parties in Indonesia on average have collaborated with the CCP regarding regeneration.
PDIP as an example
The CCP’s trail of establishing relationships with Indonesian political parties does not stop with visiting Golkar alone. In fact, most of the relationship have been carried out with PDIP.
This cooperation is not only about the issue of regeneration, but also meetings held by high-ranking officials of the two parties to discuss cooperation to increase human and financial resources.
The activities carried out were varied, for example, during a visit to Shanghai, 15 cadres learned about conducting observations in children’s health care centers and saw how the agricultural sector was developed in rural areas.
While the visit to Guiyang, the activities carried out by the PDIP delegates were to study how the local government fostered the community to develop Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in the health industry, so that they could compete in the international market. The activities carried out in Beijing were filled with workshop titles that were no less interesting, namely, “Grassroots Cadres Competitive Selection and Training”, “The Experiences on Building Close Party-Messes Relationship”, and “Sharing Experiences on Strengthening and Innovating of Social Administration”.
In 2015, cooperation was further enhanced by Megawati’s visit to Shenzhen in order to inaugurate the Indonesia-China Cooperation Center building which was named “Sukarno House” along with other high-ranking CCP officials.
This 24 story building was built to facilitate people to people and business to business interaction in business, culture and tourism activities.
Reasons and implications of cooperation between Indonesian political parties and the CCP
According to Zhang Xuyi, there are approximately 600 parties from all over the world that have collaborated with China, including parties in Indonesia. Some of the reasons the Indonesian political parties want to establish a relationship with the CCP are because the persistence of the CCP’s efforts to become the world’s largest economy has motivated parties from Indonesia to share knowledge and experiences with China.#
While the reasons for the Chinese side wanting to cooperate with parties in Indonesia are at least for two reasons, firstly by establishing relationships between political parties, it is hoped that it can strengthen relations between countries.
The implications for politics in Indonesia are very clear, with the cooperation that is being established between China and Indonesia at this time, of course it makes this relationship even tighter.
However, what is the homework for Indonesian political parties in their ties with the CCP is that to be more careful in supporting political policies and need to consider the cooperation that will be established whether to represent the interests of the people or even to represent a group of groups.
Because what is very concerned about the close relationship between these political parties will make Indonesia helpless to face Chinese pressure which ultimately supports policies that can be detrimental, for example in the South China Sea dispute, including the Natuna Waters which China claimed as its territory, whereas in 1956 Indonesia had registering the Natuna islands as the sovereignty and territory of the Republic of Indonesia.
*Dr. Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat, BA (Qatar), MA & PhD (Manchester), Lecturer at Universitas Islam Indonesia and Research Associate at Institute for Development of Economics and Finance. Yeta Purnama is a student majoring International Relations at Universitas Islam Indonesia.