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Indonesian students see benefit in warmer relations with China, but will all fellow Indonesians?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 13 May, 2018, 10:33am
UPDATED : Sunday, 13 May, 2018, 11:07pm

The official visit of Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to Indonesia last week was a remarkable event for bilateral relations, as it was the first stop on Li’s first overseas trip since China’s new cabinet took office two months ago.

As Indonesian students who study in China, it is a great pleasure to witness a much closer relationship between the two nations. We believe that the closer the relationship is, the more opportunities Indonesian students will get after graduation.

Secondly, Indonesian students see Li’s visit as a sign of success in their promotion of Indonesia. We in China actively promote our country in all events, both inside and outside universities. Our student associations organise Indonesian cultural and tourism festivals in almost every Chinese city where they study. They also promote Indonesia as good place to invest and do business. Thus, Li’s visit can be seen as proof that students have been successful in creating a good image of Indonesia. 

What’s made Indonesian students forget the China taboo?

Thirdly, the students view the visit as enhancing prospects for cooperation in several aspects, especially education. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of Indonesian students in China after President Xi Jinping’s visit in 2013, and after the Chinese government offered them more scholarships in the last two years. Thus, we are very optimistic that Li’s visit will see even more Indonesian students get scholarships to study in China.

A young Chinese Indonesian straddles modernity and tradition

Lastly, while the visit can improve prospects for cooperation, it can also be a challenge due to anti-Chinese sentiment in Indonesia. The closeness of Indonesian President Joko Widodo to China might be interpreted in a different way by opposition parties to play up the fear of communism in Indonesia. If this happens, the wave of anti-Chinese sentiment will reappear.

This will result in misunderstandings and, possibly, Indonesian students in China could even be seen as being pro-communist (antek Cina). Such a bad image will have a great impact on their career when they return to Indonesia.

We hope our fellow Indonesians will see Li’s visit as offering opportunities for Indonesia.

Fadlan Muzakki, president, Indonesian Students Association in China (PPI Tiongkok)