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Substantiating China-Indonesia Strategic Partnership
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Scholars and senior government officials held Tuesday an open and constructive discussion on the unique Sino-Indonesian relations, which have been frozen for more than two decades but regained momentum in the last few years.


The Chinese flood Indonesian markets with their cheap products, "threatening domestic industries but making the consumers happy" is among the frank opinions came out in the Jakarta seminar.


All participants agreed that since Indonesia restored diplomatic ties with China in 1990, the most influential period to robust the bilateral ties has been last year when their two leaders exchanged state visits and established the strategic partnership.


As Chinese Ambassador Lan Lijun put this, "last year is of most important significance in the history of China-Indonesia relations" with the signing of the strategic partnership.


"Our strategic partnership is a new type of state-to-state relationship that is based on mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation," Lan said.


Sino-Indonesian relationship "has been transformed from one of suspicion and fear, driven at first by ideology and then largely by ongoing territorial disputes, to one of increasing cooperation and collaboration," said Edy Prasetyono, head of international relations department with the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).


While Indonesia did little to launch new foreign policy initiatives to exploit ties with China, the latter has exerted a strong influence on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by accessing to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, the East Asia Summit and the China-ASEAN Free Trade Area.


"It is China that has been able to capitalize on its improved relations with Indonesia and Southeast Asia," said Edy.


Indonesia is one of the first countries that established diplomatic relations with China, but the relationship was not as good as expected and only in recent years they exchanged high-level visits frequently and enhanced cooperation in many areas.


"China and Indonesia, after 56 years of engagement and understanding, now fully recognize that they are true friends, rather than threats," said Shen Shishun, a senior research fellow with the China Institute of International Studies.


Co-hosted by Jakarta-based CSIS and the Chinese Embassy, the seminar also heard keynote addresses from Trade Minister Mari Elka Pangestu and Energy Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro.


"The theme of this seminar is to substantiate the strategic partnership we agreed upon last year, trying to look into what it is that both countries need to do in order to strengthen and improve the relations," CSIS executive director Hadi Soesastro told Xinhua.


"We agreed on the strategic partnership but I think what has developed in the last one year since then is far from sufficient because the focus has been limited to economic and trade relations.


"Whereas the relations should be much broader. Indonesia and China should cooperate more to develop East Asia and even the Asia-Pacific region," he said.


Natalia Soebagjo, vice chair of the Center for Chinese Studies in Jakarta, offered a different perspective in looking into China's peaceful and friendly approach toward its neighbors, particularly Indonesia.


"When the tsunami devastated Aceh on December 26, 2004, China was one of the quickest to respond and within days donated emergency relief goods to the worst-hit areas in the region," she said.


(Xinhua News Agency May 10, 2006)

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