Whoever gets elected, the next president will have to be China’s friend
Among the two presidential candidate in Indonesia’s recent election, one of them was campaigning against foreign investment, calling on Indonesians to fight against “antek asing” and vote out the current president from his seat.
The current president is even cornered by hoaxes trying to depict him as not pure muslim, discreet Christian, descendant or even member or the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), and discreet Chinese ethnic — all of which are not very favorable by most Indonesian voters who want the president to be muslim, native, and not having ties with the communist party.
While the current president is campaigning for a second term under the narrative to build the country through building the hard infrastructure in the country, his contender campaigns under the narrative to oppose foreign parties to meddle in Indonesia’s development. The contender even campaigned to get rid of foreign parties that have “stolen all of Indonesia’s natural resources” all this time.
However, the world has given us examples to closely watch and learn from them. In Malaysia, Mahathir Mohammad campaigned to unseat Najib Razak using the narrative to scrutinize and investigate all contracts signed with China under Najib’s administration, and eventually scrap all those contracts. Mahathir argues that infrastructure projects signed with China in Malaysia (including ECRL) is not among Malaysia’s priority and costs too much.
However, one year on, after several visits to China and several rounds of negotiation, Mahathir changes his narratives. It is not China’s fault, says Mahathir, that Malaysia signed all those contracts. It is his predecessor’s fault, who was not transparent and corrupt. Mahathir even attended the recent Belt and Road Forum in Beijing and commended China’s Belt and Road Initiative on many international and Chinese media. International media reported that Malaysia eventually agreed to proceed the projects because the compensation fee is too expensive for Malaysia to pay.
Same goes with Pakistan. Imran Khan, a political outsider and former cricket athlete, campaigned under the same narrative that Mahathir used. However, eventually Pakistan has to keep most of the projects. Imran Khan also visited Beijing for the recent BRF conference.
However, even the presidential candidate campaigning against foreign-backed infrastructure attended the 69th Anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China ceremony in Indonesia.
If Indonesians still think that unseating a president can cancel all foreign-backed projects in the country, they surely have a lot to learn. After all, a Chinese diplomat I talked to recently said that whoever gets elected in this year’s election, China, I quote, “has everything under control”.