About the Speaker
Dr Evan A. Laksmana, Senior Researcher, Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta, Indonesia
About the Webinar
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia-China relations have grown closer, including in defence relations. In recent months, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto personally coordinated and welcomed medical supplies from China. Indeed, Indonesia was one of only twelve countries that received the initial batch of medical assistance from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Analysts note that there has been increased, albeit quiet, communication between the Indonesian and Chinese defence ministries since Mr. Subianto’s visit to Beijing in December 2019. But the pandemic—and increased communication between the two armed forces—has not fundamentally changed the broader Indonesia-China defence relationship. Seen within the wider context of Indonesia’s defence diplomacy—from military procurement to joint exercises and educational exchanges—China remains significantly behind long-established partners like the United States, Australia, Singapore and others. Furthermore, given the domestic complexities of engaging China publicly, and the on-going maritime dispute over waters near the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, institutionalized defence cooperation between the Indonesian armed forces and the PLA is unlikely to develop very quickly. Overall, the pandemic may have opened new channels of communication but will not catapult China into the ranks of Indonesia’s top defence partners.