Indonesia and China: The Politics of a Troubled Relationship

By Rizal Sukma | Go to book overview

Preface

This book has its origins in a Ph.D. thesis submitted to the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It seeks to throw light on Indonesia's policy towards China from the breakdown of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 1967 until they were restored in 1990. It explains that diplomatic break, why it took so long to repair and why and how the eventual restoration took place when it did. The analysis of the protracted episode illuminates the primacy of Indonesia's domestic politics in foreign policy making and in that context suggests conclusions about the mixed functions of diplomatic ties.

This book argues that the matter of Indonesia restoring diplomatic ties with China is best understood in terms of the efforts made by the militarybased 'New Order' government, which came to power in 1966, to sustain its political legitimacy. To counter domestic challenge, great play was made of a claim to be the guardian of the state against communist threats. Normalisation would have reduced the credibility of that claim. The military's resistance to pleas for normalisation, especially from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, served to justify a prerogative position as the only entity capable of protecting the Republic from China, including its alleged influence over the local ethnic-Chinese minority.

The decision in 1989 to seek a restoration of diplomatic ties was facilitated by changes in the international environment. It was made possible also, however, by three significant changes in Indonesia's domestic politics: the decline in the political role of the military, President Suharto's personal political ascendancy, and his growing interest and involvement in matters of foreign policy. For President Suharto, whose own separate claim to legitimacy had shifted from the maintenance of order to economic performance, resisting the restoration of diplomatic relations no longer served its earlier domestic function. On the contrary, restoration helped Indonesia to assume a more active international role which bolstered the legitimacy of the President's rule. This analysis demonstrates also that an absence as well as the presence of diplomatic relations may advance not only the external but also the domestic interests of an incumbent government.

-ix-

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Indonesia and China: The Politics of a Troubled Relationship
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Foreword vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Abbreviations xiii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - Indonesia's Foreign Policy and Indonesia-China Diplomatic Relations (1950-1967) 16
  • 3 - The Suspension of Diplomatic Ties 44
  • 4 - Foreign Policy Debate 73
  • 5 - The Functions of Resistance 104
  • 6 - Towards the Restoration of Relations 135
  • 7 - Indonesia's Normalisation Decision and the Role of President Suharto 166
  • 8 - Conclusion 199
  • Bibliography 210
  • Index 220
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