• Indonesians are voting for a new president in a crucial election, with implications for the rivalry between the US and China.
  • With the ongoing tension between world powers over various issues, the nation plays an important role economically and politically.
  • Indonesia and other ASEAN members maintain a non-aligned stance, but rivalry between the US and China affects the region’s dynamics.

The stakes will also be high for Indonesians when they cast their ballots for a new president in the world’s biggest election on Wednesday. United States and their increasing hostility to China and the region

The Southeast Asian nation is an economically and politically important battleground in a region where world powers have long been on a collision course over Taiwan, human rights, US military deployments and Beijing’s aggressive moves in disputed waters, including the South China Sea. are

Outgoing President Joko Widodo’s foreign policy has avoided criticizing either Beijing or Washington, instead rejecting alignment with either power. The Delicate Balance Act paved the way for substantial Chinese trade and investment in Indonesia, including a $7.3 billion high-speed railway that was largely funded. From ChinaWhile Jakarta has also boosted defense ties and stepped up military exercises with the US.

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According to analysts, these policies are likely to continue if poll frontrunner Prabowo Sobianto, the current defense minister whose vice-presidential candidate is Widodo’s eldest son, wins.

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A street vendor pulls his cart in front of an election banner introducing presidential candidates on February 1, 2024 in Jakarta, Indonesia. When Indonesians cast their ballots for a new president in the world’s biggest election on Wednesday, the stakes will also be high. America and China and their growing rivalry in the region. (AP Photo/Data Alengkara)

“However, the problem for the major powers is that Jakarta is unaligned and will almost certainly remain so, regardless of who wins,” said Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation, U.S. A think tank based in

Subianto follows a policy of neutrality and has publicly praised the US and China. He cited America’s historic role in pressuring the Netherlands to recognize Indonesian sovereignty in the 1940s during a forum held at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Jakarta in November.

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“This is part of history and we cannot forget this debt of honor,” said Subianto, who also appreciated China’s importance to Southeast Asia. “China is a great civilization. It has contributed a lot and now it is very active and contributing a lot to our economy.”

Former education minister and Jakarta governor Inis Basvidan, the presidential candidate trailing Sabianto in most independent polls, said he would put Widodo’s “transactional” foreign policy on principle if he wins the election. will move on based policy.

“When a country attacks another country, we can say it is against our core values. Even though we are friends, we can reprimand them if rights are violated,” Basweden said last week. Mah said in an interview with The Associated Press without specifying which country he was from. was pointing to.

Basweden said that human rights and environmental protection should emphasize Indonesia’s foreign policy. “If we have no values, then there is a cost-benefit relationship, where we will only support countries that are profitable for us,” he said.

Former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Nataligawa hoped that the new leader who would be elected would not only say “we are not picking sides” but “actually help strengthen US-China relations.” ”

Both the US and China have seen how the emergence of a new leader in the region could threaten their interests.

Rodrigo Duterte, after seizing the Philippine presidency in 2016 on an anti-crime platform, has fostered close ties with Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin, the most vocal critic of US security policy in Asia. Became one of them.

Duterte threatened to expel US military personnel who were in the Philippines for military exercises. He later moved to cut a defense deal with Washington that would have allowed thousands of Americans to enter the country for large-scale military exercises, but he scrapped the effort because he rejected the U.S. Appealed to provide vaccine at the peak of the corona virus epidemic.

Duterte’s stormy tenure ended in 2016 and he was replaced by Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who approved the expansion of US military presence at Philippine military bases under a 2014 defense agreement. Marcos said his decision was aimed at bolstering his country’s territorial defense amid growing aggression by China’s coast guard, navy and suspected militia forces in coastal areas claimed by the Philippines.

China protested the decision, saying it would host US forces in the northern Philippines across the sea border from the Taiwan Strait, which could harm Chinese national security.

Indonesia and other member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations belong to the Non-Aligned Movement, a Cold War-era bloc of mostly developing countries formally aligned with or against a major world power. Desires not to be associated.

Still, the animosity between Washington and Beijing extends to the region.

Criticism of China’s increasingly aggressive actions in the disputed South China Sea has always been downplayed in the 10-member regional bloc ASEAN.

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State members aligned with Beijing, particularly Cambodia and Laos, have resisted any such condemnation or attempt to criticize China in joint statements after their annual meetings, several regional diplomats said on condition of anonymity. on condition told the Associated Press. Because they did not have the authority to speak publicly.

Last year, the Philippine Govt The Chinese coast guard and suspected militia forces have been accused of using water cannons, military-grade lasers and dangerous tactics against Philippine coast guard patrol vessels, leading to a series of minor skirmishes on the high seas in disputed waters. .

Indonesia-led ASEAN did not specifically mention China, but only expressed general concern over aggressive behavior in the disputed waterway after their summits.

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