Wednesday, November 10, 2010

US wars working to China's advantage in Indonesia?

American actions in the Muslim world complicate US relations with the world's third largest democracy, providing an opening China has been quick to seize. 

In 2008 Jotman travelled to Jakarta in search of Obama's "madrasah" (Photo by Jotman).

NYT on the balance of power in Southeast Asia:
American and Chinese officials have been pursuing all 10 countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, but none more aggressively than Indonesia, the world’s fourth most populous nation, spread out across a strategically important, resource-rich archipelago and now led by a democratically elected government impatient to raise the country’s international profile.

The United States will have to contend with challenges, old and new. Despite Indonesia’s enduring suspicion of China, Beijing has been making great inroads here, economically, diplomatically and militarily. And a newly confident Indonesia has been reasserting its independent foreign policy, promoting what it now calls a “dynamic equilibrium” for the region.
At a September US-ASEAN meeting in New York "Mr. Obama was seeking support in pressing China for a resolution to disputes in the South China Sea."  But President Yudhoyono didn't show up.   How do some Indonesians account for Yudhoyono's absence?

“The Indonesian government felt that the U.S. was putting too much pressure on Indonesia and other Asean nations to choose sides,” said Syamsul Hadi, a political scientist at the University of Indonesia.
How did US-Indonesian relations begin to unravel to such an extent?  Although America's strong bond with the Suharto dictatorship had come at a tremendous human cost, today it is US actions in the Muslim world that most complicate its relationship with the world's third largest democracy.  A timeline could be helpful...

Timeline of Chinese and American involvement in Indonesia

Here's a timeline of recent Chinese and American involvement in Indonesia.   I began building this timeline by throwing in some events mentioned in the NY Times article.   I added some other related events from some other sources.

1954 - Eisenhower's "domino theory" speech (if one country in Southeast Asia goes communist, it would set an example for the rest to follow).  Serious American involvement in the affairs of Vietnam begins....
1964 - CIA rallies anti-communist groups in Indonesia, helps to disseminate propaganda painting communists as instruments of Chinese imperialism.
1965 - Failed communist coup in Indonesia which gets blamed on China.  Indonesia cuts diplomatic ties with China.   Obama's stepfather Lolo Soetoro meets Obama's mother in Hawaii.  Soetoro would be conscripted to fight the communists and would later work as a government relations consultant for Mobil.
1966 - Half a million Indonesians massacred by the anti-communists from 1965 to 1966, including a large number of ethnic Chinese.
1967 - Sukarno removed.  US-backed strongman Suharto assumes presidency.  Obama enrolled in Jakarta school.
1970 - Obama's family leaves Jakarta.
1998Indonesian revolution.  Ethnic Chinese and Chinese shops targeted by rioters in Jakarta.
1989 - Indonesia restores diplomatic relations with China.
2002 - Bali bombing kills 202, injures 240.
2003 - United States invades Iraq.  Hundreds of thousands of Indonesians take to the streets of Jakarta in protest.
2004 - Yudhoyono president.   His defense minister, Juwono Sudarsono, seeks "strategic space" in US rivalry against China. 
2005 - Indonesia signs "Strategic Partnership" agreement with China.  High-level military exchanges commence.
2009 - In the five years since the Partnership agreement was signed, trade between Indonesia and China  "more than doubles."
2010 - In Sept. the US lifts a ban on cooperating with Kopassus (KPK), an Indonesian special forces unit implicated in various war crimes. President Yudhoyono skips New York meeting between President Obama and ASEAN leaders. In early November, a high-level Chinese delegation wrapped up a three-day official visit to Indonesia by announcing that Beijing would invest $6.6 billion in desperately needed infrastructure improvements. The very next day Air Force One landed for Obama's first visit.

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