With wary eye, China courts Indonesia’s incoming leader Prabowo

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Apr 03, 2024, 05:19 PM


Apr 03, 2024, 05:19 PM

JAKARTA – Soon after Indonesia’s incoming leader Prabowo Subianto won the February presidential election, the Chinese embassy in Jakarta sent him a cat tree and a stuffed toy for his beloved pet Bobby, according to the cat’s official Instagram page.

It was part of a concerted charm offensive by China, the second-largest investor in Indonesia behind neighbour Singapore.

Days after Mr Prabowo claimed victory in the election, China’s ambassador to Indonesia came to his home to congratulate him. And this week, Mr Prabowo travelled to Beijing at the invitation of President Xi Jinping.

Analysts say China is courting Mr Prabowo to ensure the continuation of outgoing President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo’s policies, which include a strong economic relationship with Beijing and very few irritants.

But analysts say although Mr Prabowo is expected to continue Mr Widodo’s policies, he might be more unpredictable and explosive if Indonesia is dragged into geopolitical tensions, such as the simmering conflict in the South China Sea.

China lays claim to almost the entire waterway, a conduit for more than US$3 trillion (S$4 trillion) in annual maritime commerce, but its claims overlap those of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, all members of the Association of South-east Asian Nations.

China’s relations with the Philippines have nosedived in recent months because of the South China Sea claims and Manila’s growing ties with the United St...

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