Trump versus China under Indonesia’s Point of View

Donald J Trump’s victory as a newly elected president of the United States seems to create cons issues since he has no experience in public office, no background in foreign policy as well as with zero political track record. As a successful businessman, he has to learn about international affairs quickly to demolish the anxiety in both domestic and international scale of the worldwide. Meaning that President-elect Trump has so much homework to finish while it is a bit awkward when he thought to work closely with Vladimir Putin in Russia, Hassan Rouhani in Iran, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and Xi Jinping in China for security matter to combat terrorist which in the previous administration this coalition never existed. Despite security reasons, Trump also has an economic interest in China which focused more on currency and trade issues than China’s military buildup and geo-strategic ambitions in Asia especially Southeast Asia.

The world is currently facing serious uncertainties future. Many things happened in the past one decade whether related to security issue such as transnational crime which is not limited to terrorism and counter-terrorism only plus worldwide social humanity issues such as human rights, poverty, global health and inequality among states. But in fact, the mainstream phenomenon shifted to global economic growth and climate change issues that made China went viral. International citizens agree that China became famous is not only because of its drama over South China Sea dispute. More than that, China turned out to be an outstanding country because of their influence towards world market through their economic power expansion across the globe (as they claimed). The instigation ‘open door’ policies in 1978, made China has experienced three decades of considerable economic and institutional reform. These reforms have directed towards changing the domestic industrial structure and increasing the degree of integration of China’s economy and its business into the global economy especially for developing countries. As China accounts for the world’s 15% total output, biggest population, largest standing-army, and currency manipulation tactics, it has the potential to be the world’s power among Asia countries. This interesting fact is supported by progressive relations between China and the United States as well which is able to catch the world’s attention rapidly.

In fact, people are impressed while some of them are still questioning or even criticizing the real condition of the domestic situation in China when the political system seems to contradict an economic system. Stand as a successor in Chinese history made Mao Zedong become a hero for the betterment of China under the idea of isolation which still held the value of strong communist. But everything has changed when Deng Xiaoping chose to open the gate in order to be more open by interacting with the world by strengthening the domestic economic power as well as fostering a competitive mentality across the world. Now, current president Xi Jinping after the transition from the previous leader turns out to be someone different in order to bring China out of the box under his strongman leadership role. Even though his current government communist ideology is still the same with the former leaders to limit the internet uses, the role of media and the participation of NGO’s but then when it comes to the idea of economic system, the liberal element stands strong under Xi Jinping leadership. China is able to attack the enemies by using their political and economical playbook which are too strategic to fostering the national strength of China in facing global affairs. China is a success to handle the difference between political and economical approaching in the international system. The spreading of power by maximizing the hegemony in balancing Japan, the United States and South Korea power in Asia made China unique and special.

China has a straight vision under its strong identity, dignity and geo-strategic interests. External environment and internal challenge as well as maintaining constant growth and domestic stability are becoming a big deal for China in order to show us their nationalism value. Their powerful independent behavior as well as strong leadership in running the political situation has drove China to show an extraordinary dynamic development in economic performance. It’s different from another great power country such as the United States and the United Kingdom, China became a new model of relations between great powers and small or medium powers. China’s aggressive power is still being able to treat small and medium power countries with respect especially towards Southeast Asia countries under peaceful approaching. The role of China in  Asia is also trying to balance the power from the West by providing a great-medium-small power engagement platform in the region to strengthen the relationship with the neighbor.

China is a great example of successfully combining capitalistic precepts in its economy with a communistic approach governing the system. Even though urban life, in general, has became much better in terms of freedom of movement, education, the flow of capitals, entrepreneurship environment and quality of life but still there is a great amount of censorship over the freedom of expression as well as the internet such as the banning of some general websites and social media corporations which are Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google in order to focus on domestic social media and website design by China. Baidu – so-called “Chinese Google”.

Trump’s business through hotel development in Indonesia might be one strong reason for Washington DC to cooperate with Indonesia apart from his new policy to ban Muslims entering the United States which we believe will give a serious implication to Indonesia as the world’s largest Muslim population. But we still can not predict what will happen next between Indonesia and the United States relations while politically Indonesia faces a hard time in the religion issue through Islamic sentiment which probably will affect the economic side as well.

Meanwhile, China as a new power in Asia through its reformation to be Chinese again has been spreading across Southeast Asia countries particularly in economic sector. This phenomenon might create interest for the United States to maintain a balance of power in Asia especially Southeast Asia countries including Indonesia as one of the emerging countries now. But we have no idea if Trump’s administration will strengthen the relations with Southeast Asia countries and Asia Pacific region generally which did by Obama’s administration previously.

Since Trump’s administration will clearly put high interest to work with Russia and the Middle East instead of Asia to counter-terrorism, the further prediction should be clear that Trump’s administration will benefit China. Why? During Obama’s administration, the United States was focused to balance China power in the Asia Pacific by giving aggressive responses to the South China Sea. In contrast, Trump seems will focus more to domestic issue as his strong line to “Make America Great Again” and ” America First” which probably will not press China on island-building and militarization of the South China but will let China strengthening its regional power across Asia Pacific specifically in Southeast Asia. But it could be wrong if Trump considers Taiwan as a next partner as we know China and Taiwan relations is not good while Trump had a plan to reconnect the United States and Taiwan. Unpredictable situation is still there as where we can not predict if Trump will gives a free pass entry of China’s power to Asia Pacific or maybe Trump may shift the United States policy to balance China’s power in the Asia Pacific.

Indonesia generally saw the new emphasis of China on Asia as a classic “balance of power” in countering the power of the US in Asia Pacific region whether in the military or even in the economic sector, especially for Southeast Asia countries. This phenomenon also related to deeper market integration between China and its neighbors and greater interdependence in order to open many doors ahead where Indonesia sees the United States is very unlikely to compete with resources and assets comparable to what China can muster through Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) since 2013 under on strong concept “One Belt One Road” to accomplish economic integration and interdependence. The rise of China in the last three decades has been nothing short of a miracle since China has gone from struggling to feed its people and finally turned out to be a great power with ever-increasing global ambitions. A powerful China’s economic power has enabled Beijing to build and expand its diplomatic and political influence in Southeast Asia as well as being a key trading partner with all 11 countries in the region especially Indonesia.

Indonesia is significant political, diplomatic, strategic and economic interest to both China and the United States since Indonesia is already being actively courted by China and the United States in pursuing their interest. Indonesia is well aware of China’s development that can bring Indonesia’s economy come to a higher level than before especially in a time of economic crisis in the West, China has been major source of trade and investment. If Indonesia and China relations are strong in economic sector which is based on historical background, It is a bit different from the United States and Indonesia’s future relations are likely to be stronger than its ties to China in terms of defense and security.

For the next decades the United States seems to worry about China not because China will taking over Asia but because of China’s economic pressure, navy and air force, ballistic missiles, cyber warfare capabilities as well as China will increasingly be able to deploy submarines, computer hacking which will create more of multi-polar military environment in the Western Pacific rather than the uni-polar military environment that the United States was lucky enough to maintain for decades. Probably the United States needs to make room and space for China in the Asia Pacific region especially in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, the realities of globalization should give the United States and China a sufficient basis to cooperate in strengthening the international order based on their current relationship even though the shifting balance of power between them creates some uncertainty.


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