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Indonesian President-Elect visits China amid decade of close ties

Indonesian President-Elect visits China amid decade of close ties

Indonesian President-Elect visits China amid decade of close ties

Indonesian President-Elect visits China amid decade of close ties

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  • Xi has invited Prabowo for discussions on two-way ties, despite his upcoming sworn-in as the next leader of Southeast Asia.
  • Unlike incumbent Indonesian leader Joko Widodo, Prabowo has not visited China as president-elect before being sworn in.
  • China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea may also test his leadership.
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President-elect Prabowo Subianto is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday for high-level talks, less than two months after winning the race to lead Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Xi has invited Prabowo for discussions on two-way ties, even though the 72-year-old political veteran will only be sworn in as the next leader of Southeast Asia’s most populous nation in October.

Prabowo is visiting China as the first foreign nation since being elected president, ahead of Indonesia’s neighbors in the region, thus underlining the close partnership built up in the past decade under his predecessor, Joko Widodo.

In contrast, Jokowi, also known as the incumbent Indonesian leader, did not travel abroad as president-elect before being sworn in.

But after his inauguration, Jokowi’s first visit was to China for an annual summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in 2014.

That visit was followed by six more through 2023.

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During the last decade, China has become Indonesia’s top trading partner as its natural resources, such as coal and nickel, help to power the world’s second-largest economy.

China has also invested billions into Indonesian infrastructure and industrial projects, including the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway.

Analysts widely see Prabowo, now Indonesia’s defense minister, as having the backing of Jokowi, who has bet on his former political rival-turned-ally to preserve his legacy.

However, it remains to be seen how Prabowo will navigate other issues, including the jostling for influence between China and the United States in Southeast Asia.

Prabowo has previously stated that Indonesia was committed to its policy of non-alignment and would maintain good ties with both China and the United States.

China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea may also present a test for his leadership, although the two countries’ overlapping claims there have not escalated into a vociferous dispute as has unfolded in recent months between China and the Philippines.

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Indonesia asserts that the southern end of the South China Sea is part of its exclusive economic zone and, in 2017, designated the area as the North Natuna Sea.

China rejects the claim, stating that the area falls within its territorial claim in the South China Sea marked by a U-shaped “nine-dash line,” a boundary that the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague has determined to have no legal basis.

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