Indonesia and China: The Politics of a Troubled Relationship

By Rizal Sukma | Go to book overview

8

Conclusion

The functions of diplomatic ties with China

The main objectives of this book have been to explore and illuminate the relationship between the political context and the foreign policy making process in Indonesia under former President Suharto and to assess the functions of diplomatic ties with special reference to the restoration of diplomatic relations with China. To that end, particular attention has been given to the issue of regime legitimacy which was the absorbing priority of Indonesia's New Order government from its assumption of power in 1966. Correspondingly, the enquiry has been pursued beyond the conventional understanding of the functions of diplomatic ties in order to demonstrate their relevance to domestic political imperatives.

The preceding analysis has sought to demonstrate that, in a post-colonial state like Indonesia, regime legitimacy has depended on the extent to which internal challenges have been met by the government. For example, the attainment of economic development may be a significant source of legitimacy. It is important however to recognise that economic success alone is not a sufficient condition for achieving it. This study has attempted to show that in some circumstances, the rupture and withholding of diplomatic ties may be utilised by a regime to serve the cause of political legitimacy. Paradoxically, a restoration of those ties may also serve the same end. Such a restoration could be in the interest of a regime seeking an active international role in order to demonstrate international recognition of its success in economic development as a way of reinforcing domestic legitimacy. This line of argument suggests that legitimacy is not purely a matter of 'domestic business'; regimes have long managed issues external to the state for their domestic political purposes. Conceived in this way, diplomatic ties may serve as a useful instrument in a government's attempt to strengthen its right to rule as well as a claim to a role on the international stage. And equally important, playing a role internationally may confer prestige helpful to enhancing and strengthening the right to rule. Therefore, an emphasis on legitimacy and legitimisation opens up the prospect of understanding the functions of diplomatic ties as means with which to promote domestic political interests. At the same time, it may allow us to recognise how domestic political processes and priorities can be influenced by international factors such as the question of diplomatic ties.

In the case of Indonesia's policy towards China, the problem of legitimacy has

-199-

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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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