January 3, 2023
JAKARTA – While congratulating her newly appointed Chinese counterpart Qin Gang on Sunday, Foreign Minister Retno L.P. Marsudi noted that Jakarta remained enthusiastic about strengthening its ties with Beijing and bolstering the Indonesia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership.
Having worked with former Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi for the past eight years, Retno added that she was eager to maintain the two countries’ relationship with Qin.
“Congratulations to Qin Gang @AmbQinGang on your appointment as foreign minister of PRC. […] My thanks to Wang Yi, for working together in our common efforts to strengthen the ties and cooperation between our two countries and peoples,” Retno tweeted, using the abbreviation for the People’s Republic of China.
The Indonesia-China Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was agreed in 2013, the same year Wang was appointed. The partnership aimed to boost cooperation in the economy, trade, fishery, space and tourism, and has produced numerous agreements, memorandums of understanding (MoUs) and plans since, including a 2022-2026 five-year action plan.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo and Chinese President Xi Jinping shared “an in-depth” exchange during the former’s July visit to discuss the future of the comprehensive partnership, according to joint statement from the pair released by the Foreign Ministry.
Many have perceived the appointment of Qin, a former Chinese envoy to the United States, as part of Beijing’s efforts to stabilize its relationship with Washington.
The continuing tension between the two superpowers has left many countries in a peculiar position. This includes Indonesia, which has been performing a balancing act in recent years in an effort to stay neutral.
As with other Indo-Pacific countries, experts noted that Jakarta was cooperating with China on the economy while maintaining close ties with the US for security reasons.
Washington also welcomed Qin’s new appointment, with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeting: “Spoke by phone this morning with incoming China Foreign Minister Qin Gang as he departed Washington for his new role. We discussed the US-PRC relationship and maintaining open lines of communication.”
A State Department spokesperson added that the US expected “to continue a productive working relationship with Foreign Minister Qin in his new role”.
A significant number of US officials generally viewed Qin as willing to work with the US, the spokesperson said as quoted by Reuters, and that the two countries’ relationship held “great opportunities and potential” when Qin arrived in Washington in mid-2021 as the new Chinese ambassador to the US.
Qin also made it apparent that one of his priorities was to improve Beijing’s reputation in the US.
“I have found [since becoming an ambassador] that I am in an environment of ‘threat-phobia’. My country is greatly misperceived and miscalculated as a challenge – or even a threat – to the US,” said Qin in an August 2022 interview with US media, a transcript of which was made available by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
“A country cannot build its security at the cost of other countries. […] It is not a zero-sum game, and a Cold War mentality is not a solution to security issues in the modern world,” he said.