China–Indonesia relations

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Chinese-Indonesian relations
Map indicating locations of China and Indonesia



China–Indonesia relations refer to the foreign relations between China and Indonesia. The relations between two nations has been commenced since centuries ago, and officially recognize in 1950. However the diplomatic relationship was suspended in 1967, and it was resumed in 1990. China have an embassy in Jakarta and consulates in Surabaya and Medan, while Indonesia have an embassy in Beijing and consulates in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Both countries are among large nations in Asia in terms of both area and population, China is the most populous nation on earth, while Indonesia has the 4th largest population in the world. Both nations are the member of APEC and G-20 major economies.

According to a 2014 BBC World Service Poll, the opinion of China among Indonesians remains strongly positive and stable, with 52% of positive view compared to 28% expressing a negative view.[1]


The Zheng He memorial statue in Sam Poo Kong temple, Semarang, commemorate the Ming naval voyage to Indonesian archipelago.

The relations between imperial China and ancient Indonesia has commenced since 7th century and perhaps earlier. Indonesia was part of maritime Silk Road connecting China with India and the Arab world. Numerous Chinese ceramics, were discovered throughout Indonesia suggested ancient trade links between both countries. The National Museum of Indonesia has one of the best and the most complete collections of Chinese ceramics discovered outside China, dated from Han, Tang, Sung, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasty spanned for almost two millennia.[2] This particular collection give a good insight into Indonesia's maritime trade over the centuries. Research indicates that the Chinese sailed to India via Indonesia as early as Western Han period (205 BC to 220 AD) as part of maritime silk road and that firm trade relations were subsequently established.[3] Traditionally Indonesian archipelago, identified by ancient Chinese geographer as Nanyang, was the source of spices such as cloves, cubeb, and nutmeg, raw materials such as sandalwood, gold and tin, also exotic rare items such as ivory, rhino horn, tiger fur and bone, exotic birds and colorful feathers. While fine silk and ceramics of China was sought by Indonesian ancient kingdoms. Indonesia also play some role in Buddhism expansion from India to China. A Chinese monk, I-Tsing, visited Srivijaya in 671 for 6 months during his mission to acquire Buddhist sacred texts from India.[4][5] Other Chinese account and chronicles also had mentioned several ancient states in today Indonesia.

Since I-Tsing, numbers of Chinese travelers such as Chou Ju-kua began to visited and wrote about Indonesian archipelago. Most of ancient China and Indonesia relations were trade-motivated and throughout their shared history, most are harmonious and peaceful, with one exception. In 1293, Kublai Khan of Yuan dynasty sent a massive expedition of 1,000 ships to Java to punish the defiant king Kertanegara of Singhasari.[6] The naval expedition however, was a failure as Java rose to be Majapahit empire instead. Maritime empire such as Srivijaya, Majapahit, and later Malacca sought trade permit to establish relations with lucrative Chinese market. The numbers of Chinese immigrants and Chinese influences in the archipelago reach a new height, with the massive Ming dynasty naval expedition led by admiral Zheng He that visited Java, Sumatra, and Malay peninsula in early 15th century. The Chinese naval expedition contributed to the establishment of overseas Chinese settlements in Indonesia, such as Semarang, Tuban and Lasem with significant Chinese population since Majapahit era.

During the colonial Dutch East Indies Company and Dutch East Indies era, significant Chinese settlers began to filled labor needs and seek a new life in Indonesian archipelago. Most of Chinese Indonesian immigrants came from Southern China provinces, such as Fujian and Guangdong. Significant Chinese settlements were established in West Kalimantan, east coast of Sumatra, and Java northern coast.

After the independence of Indonesia in 1945 and acknowledgement of its sovereignty from the Dutch in 1949, Indonesia established political relations with China (previously with Republic of China and later with People's Republic of China) in 1950.[7] Indeed, it was the first country in Southeast Asia to establish official diplomatic relations with the PRC.[8] During Sukarno administration China and Indonesia enjoys close relations. In the 1950s to 1960s Communist Party of China had close relations with their Indonesian counterparts. However, after the failed communist coup in 1965 resulting the fall of Sukarno and the rise of Suharto, in 1967 Indonesia severed the diplomatic relations and held that Communist China was partly responsible behind the coup.[9] The diplomatic relations however, is restored and resumed again in 1990 following the normalization of China-Indonesia diplomatic relations.

Political relations[edit]

China and Indonesia established diplomatic relations on April 13, 1950, which was suspended on October 30, 1967 due to the occurrence of the September 30 event of 1965.

Bilateral relations has improved since the 1980s. Foreign Minister Qian Qichen of China met with President Suharto and State Minister Moerdiono of Indonesia in 1989 to discuss the resumption of diplomatic relations of the two countries. In December 1989, the two sides held talks on the technical issues regarding the normalization of bilateral relations and signed the Minutes. Foreign Minister Ali Alatas of Indonesia visited China on invitation in July 1990 and the two sides issued the Agreement on the Settlement of Indonesia's Debt Obligation to China and the Communique on the Resumption of Diplomatic Relations between the two countries. The two countries issued the "Communiqué on the Restoration of Diplomatic Relations between the Two Countries".

Premier Li Peng visited Indonesia on invitation on August 6, 1990. In his talks with President Suharto, the two sides expressed their willingness to improve relations between the two countries on the basis of the Five Principles of Peaceful Co-Existence and the Ten Principles of the Bandung Conference. On 8 August, Foreign Ministers of China and Indonesia on behalf of their respective governments, signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Resumption of Diplomatic Relations. The two sides declared the formal resumption of the diplomatic relations between China and Indonesia that day.


Main article: Bamboo network

Trade between China and Indonesia is on the rise, especially after the implementation of ACFTA since early 2010. Indeed, while in 2003 trade between Indonesia and China reached only USD 3.8 billion, in 2010 it multiplied almost 10 times reached USD 36.1 billion.[10] China's transformation into a major economic power in the 21st century has led to an increase of foreign investments in the bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses operating in the markets of Southeast Asia that share common family and cultural ties.[11][12] However the free trade with China has caused much anxiety in Indonesia, since inflows of cheap products from China could harm Indonesian industry. Indonesian private sector and civil society organizations vigorously lobbied the Indonesian government and members of parliament, insisting that Indonesia should either pull out of the agreement or renegotiate its terms with Beijing.

China has also been one of Indonesia’s key major trading partners in recent years, serving as the country’s largest export and import market. By 2010, China had managed to overtake the United States as Indonesia’s second-largest export destination after Japan reaching USD 14.0 billion. China is also becoming Indonesia’s most important source of imports, reaching USD 19.6 billion in 2010. The balance however was in favour of China as Indonesia booked trade deficit USD -4.7 billion in 2010.[10]

From China’s perspective, since 2010 ASEAN as a whole has become its fourth-largest trading partner after the European Union, Japan and the United States. Among ASEAN member countries, Indonesia was China’s fourth-largest trading partner, which, according to data as of May 2010 from the Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, amounted to USD 12.4 billion, after Malaysia (USD 22.2 billion), Singapore (USD 17.9 billion) and Thailand (USD 15.7 billion).[10]


Batik Pesisiran with the image of qilin, demonstrate Chinese-influenced images, testify the centuries-old relations between China and Indonesia.

Since ancient times, Indonesian culture began to absorb many aspects of Chinese elements, such as Chinese origin loanwords in Indonesian that mostly are terms of all things Chinese, cuisine, to art and crafts such as Javanese Batik Pesisiran (coastal batik) that demonstrate Chinese images such as Chinese cloud, phoenix, dragon, qilin, to peony flower.

State visits[edit]

President Yudhoyono of Indonesia and Peng Qinghua, member of 18th Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, in Jakarta, June 17th, 2013.

The bilateral relations developed gradually since the resumption of diplomatic relations of the two countries. Since the resumption of diplomatic ties between the two countries, President Yang Shangkun (in 1991), Chairman of NPC Standing Committee Qiao Shi (in 1993) and Vice Premier Zhu Rongji (in 1996), Vice President Hu Jintao (in 2000) of China visited Indonesia. President Suharto (in 1990), Speaker of Parliament Suhud (in 1991), Vice President Sudarmono(in 1992) and Chairman of the Supreme Advisory Council Sudomo (in 1997) visited China. President Jiang Zemin of China paid a state visit to Indonesia in November 1994 after he attended the second APEC Leaders' Informal Meeting. In December 1999, President K.H. Abdurrahman Wahid of Indonesia paid a state visit to China, during which the two countries issued a joint press communiqué. In July 2000, Vice President Hu Jintao visited Indonesia at the invitation of Vice President Megawati.

In November 2001, Premier Zhu Rongji paid a visit to Indonesia. In March 2002, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri paid a state visit to China. In April, President Abdurrahman Wahid of the Indonesian People's Consultative Assembly visited China. In September, Chairman Li Peng of the NPC paid an official friendly visit to Indonesia.

Starting from 1991, the foreign ministries of the two countries set up a consultation mechanism and up to now it has held six times of consultation. In March 2002, the two countries exchanged notes in regard with the setup of Indonesian consulates general in Guangzhou. Indonesia has its Consulate-General in Hong Kong.

On November 8 to 11, 2014, newly elected Indonesian President Joko Widodo paid his first official overseas visit to China to attend APEC summit in Beijing. He paid bilateral meeting with China President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang.[13] Most recently in April 2015, President Xi Jinxing visited Bandung to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Asian-African Conference.


Tiongkok (中国) is an Indonesian term for China and the Chinese meaning "middle kingdom". It has origins in the Min Nan dialect (the local dialect of Southern Fujian) of the word Zhongguo, in Mandarin. The word—in its Romanized form (Tiongkok)-- was used in Indonesian by the Indonesian government to refer to China up until 1972[14] but its use ceased following a period of hostile relations in the 1960s. The authoritarian, anti-Chinese New Order government mandated the replacement of the term Tiongkok, as well as Tionghoa (中華), with "Cina". Many Chinese Indonesians felt that the term (in reference to them) was derogatory and racist, connoting "backwardness, humiliation, queues and bound feet".[15] After the fall of President Suharto in 1998, the use of Tiongkok has seen a re-emergence.[16]

On 14 March 2014, Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, signed a presidential decree (Keputusan Presiden) No. 12/2014, to change the legal use of Indonesian language term to refer China. Changes including to replace the term Cina or China to Tiongkok to refer China as a country, and Tionghoa to refer Chinese people, or Chinese descents. This change was meant to eradicate discrimination and prejudice towards Chinese Indonesians.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 2014 World Service Poll BBC
  2. ^ "Museum in Jakarta". 
  3. ^ Rosi, Adele (1998). Museum Nasional Guide Book. Jakarta: PT Indo Multi Media,Museum Nasional and Indonesian Heritage Society. p. 54. 
  4. ^ Munoz. Early Kingdoms. p. 122. 
  5. ^ Zain, Sabri. "Sejarah Melayu, Buddhist Empires". 
  6. ^ Weatherford, Jack (2004), Genghis khan and the making of the modern world, New York: Random House, p. 239, ISBN 0-609-80964-4 .
  7. ^ Sukma, Rizal (2009). "Indonesia's Response to the Rise of China: Growing Comfort amid Uncertainties" (PDF). 140. Retrieved 25 November 2014. 
  8. ^ Sukma, Rizal (2009). "Indonesia-China Relations: The Politics of Re-engagement". Asian Survey 49 (4): 591–608. doi:10.1525/as.2009.49.4.591.  See p. 591.
  9. ^ Taomo Zhou, "Ambivalent Alliance: Chinese Policy towards Indonesia, 1960-1965," Cold War International History Project Working Paper No. 67 (August 2013)
  10. ^ a b c Alexander C. Chandra and Lucky A. Lontoh (2011). "Indonesia – China Trade Relations: The deepening of economic integration amid uncertainty?" (PDF). International Institute for Sustainable Development. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  11. ^ Quinlan, Joe (November 13, 2007). "Insight: China’s capital targets Asia’s bamboo network". Financial Times. 
  12. ^ Murray L Weidenbaum (1 January 1996). The Bamboo Network: How Expatriate Chinese Entrepreneurs are Creating a New Economic Superpower in Asia. Martin Kessler Books, Free Press. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-0-684-82289-1. 
  13. ^ Rendi A. Witular and Hasyim Widhiarto (9 November 2014). "Jokowi on world stage, first stop Beijing". The Jakarta Post. Retrieved 10 November 2014. 
  14. ^ Sukma, Rizal (1999). Indonesia and China. Routledge. p. 68. ISBN 978-0-415-20552-8. 
  15. ^ Lim, Hermanto; Mead, David (2011). "Chinese in Indonesia: A Background Study" (PDF). SIL International. p. 5. 
  16. ^ Quinn, George (2001). The Learner's Dictionary of Today's Indonesian. Allen & Unwin. p. 79. ISBN 978-1-86448-543-1. 
  17. ^ Fitri Supratiwi (20 March 2014). "Keppres penggantian istilah China menjadi Tionghoa ditandatangani" (in Indonesian). Antara News. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 


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