Sat, 21 Dec 2002

Indonesia still respect the "one China policy"

Jusuf Wanandi Founder and Member Board of Trustees Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Jakarta

If there is one country that understands more fully what China's "one-China policy" means, that country is Indonesia.

Indonesia, a diverse country encompassing a huge archipelago, has faced challenges of separation since she was established in 1945, and still faces some demands for independence in Aceh and West Papua.

Indonesia is trying to find a peaceful and negotiated settlement to these problems. An agreement on the cessation of hostilities has been reached in Aceh as a first step towards a political settlement.

The era of democratization has brought about a new element in solving those problems. There is now a clear understanding that an acceptable solution can be reached through peaceful negotiations. It has also led to realization that separation could only happen through a peaceful settlement, meaning that both sides have to agree on the separation as happened between the Czech Republic and Slovakia a decade ago.

Indonesia's supports a "one-China policy", stated when diplomatic relations were restored in 1990, as a matter of principle and not for the sake of expediency to be able to normalize the relations. Indonesia's principle is that separation is not acceptable except through peaceful means and agreed by both sides.

In this sense, the policy of foreign minister Hassan Wirayuda to refuse the so-called head of state visit from Taiwan two weeks ago has to be supported. Indonesia cannot condone separation without both sides, China and Taiwan, agreeing to do so through peaceful negotiation. The one China policy has to be supported consistently and without playing political games with Taiwan, which would only damage relations with China. Similarly, Indonesia does not condone a military attack by China to take over Taiwan by force.

Taiwan has always tried to compete with China and to undermine the one-China principle through tactics that is neither open nor transparent and fair.

In 1967 immediately after President Sukarno was demoted and President Soeharto took over, the Indonesian government tried to open trade and economic relations with Taiwan by establishing a Chamber of Commerce in both Taipei and Jakarta a few years later. Then Taiwan promised to supply a revolving credit of US$10 million to buy goods from Taiwan, mostly from her light industries. But this has never been fulfilled.

Later Taiwan always tried to cut short on her political interest of getting Indonesia to postpone her normalization with China by selling rice cheaply through cronies of President Soeharto. When it comes to investment in Indonesia it was undertaken mainly through Soeharto's family and cronies, or through Army corporations and their cronies to get as much political linkage as possible for those investments. It was never really separated from political considerations on her side.

Later, then minister for technology and science B.J. Habibie, also would like to get into the act by establishing contacts with Taiwan to be able to sell planes. He even made it possible for Lee Teng-hui to play golf with President Soeharto in Bali. This was also done to get as much investment as possible from Kuo Min Tang owned companies. They are the bulk of Taiwan's investment in Indonesia, amounting US$17 billion.

In the end it should be argued, that as the foreign minister said earlier, trade and investment or economic relations have to be based on economic considerations. If they are not, they will not last. And if Taiwan, as some of its parliament members have argued, would see their investment in Indonesia as a political act, and therefore would like to withdraw their investments because of the refusal to allow President Chen to visit, it is their right to do so. All kinds of tactics using various promises through some individuals, as happened with the visit of vice president Annete Lu a few months ago, and in that way trying to put the Indonesian government in a fait a complit, can never be acceptable to Indonesia.