Indonesia and China: The Politics of a Troubled Relationship

By Rizal Sukma | Go to book overview

3

The suspension of diplomatic ties

Its functions and the roots of resistance

It has been argued in the previous chapter that Indonesia's decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in 1950 arose primarily out of the Republic's desire to maintain internal unity as well as to register its legal personality and legitimacy as a new state in the international society. Those relations, however, proved soon to be problematic because they were built on unstable foundations. Jakarta-Beijing relations entered a more cordial phase only during the final years of Guided Democracy during which a close diplomatic liaison between the two governments was undertaken primarily to serve the domestic political interests of both Sukarno and his communist supporters at the expense of the military and other anti-communist forces. Consequently, Indonesia-China diplomatic relations failed to escape their underlying vulnerability to the domestic pressures of anti-communist forces in Indonesia, especially from the army and the Muslim community. The suspension of diplomatic relations in October 1967 after the 1965 abortive coup reflected that underlying feature of the relationship between the two countries. It occurred as a significant consequence of the destruction of Indonesia's Communist Party (PKI), the collapse of Sukarno's Guided Democracy in March 1966 and the rise of the army into power. China, once a close ally of Sukarno's Indonesia in an attempt to build a 'new' international political system, was now portrayed by the New Order government as the main threat to the country's security.

This chapter seeks to examine the reasons for Indonesia's suspension of diplomatic ties with China and what functions it served for domestic politics, how that policy was sustained by the notion of a 'China threat' held by Indonesia's elite and society, and the origins and roots of the protracted debate among the political elite on the question of restoring ties with China which lasted over more than two decades. The discussion in this chapter is divided into five sections. The first section analyses Indonesia's decision to suspend diplomatic ties with China in terms of domestic political imperatives. The second section elaborates the main aspects of the so-called 'China threat' to the country's national security. The third section examines historical and political factors that made the New Order's perception of China as a threat acceptable to the wider segment of Indonesia's society. The fourth section examines the origins of protracted debate on the question of restoring diplomatic ties in Indonesia. Finally, the chapter addresses

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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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