Highest US Military Officer to Indonesia, Jokowi Leaves for China

Arfi Bambani
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo and President of China Xi Jinping in Beijing
President of Indonesia Joko Widodo and President of China Xi Jinping in Beijing - Last Monday, July 25, 2022, President Joko Widodo went to China to meet the President of the People's Republic of China Xi Jinping. Meanwhile, the day before, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, General Mark A Milley, was visiting Indonesia.

The visit of the leader of the US armed forces is part of the US campaign in the region to remind China's aggressiveness. “This is an area in which China is trying to do outreach for their own purposes. And again, this is concerning because China is not doing it just for benign reasons,” Milley told reporters traveling with him to Indonesia as reported by several news agencies, Sunday, July 24.

Presidential Chief of Staff General (retired) Moeldoko denied that President Jokowi's trip to China was related to the visit of the highest leadership of the United States (US) armed forces. Moeldoko, who was the former Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces, stated that General Mark A. Milley's arrival was to establish cooperation with the TNI and his arrival was greeted directly by the Commander of the TNI, General Andika Perkasa.

Andika Perkasa himself stated that the last visit of a commander in chief of the United States Armed Forces was 14 years ago. At that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces General Peter Pace also briefly met President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Quick Decision

Jokowi's visit to China, reported by the Antara news agency, seemed to happen abruptly. As of Tuesday, July 19, Antara correspondent in Beijing, M Irfan Ilmie, had not received any confirmation regarding Jokowi's visit even though rumors had circulated rapidly.

The confirmation was obtained after Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi announced in Jakarta on Thursday, July 21, that President Jokowi would visit China on July 25. The instantaneous impression was also because a few days before the President left for China, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi had just visited Jakarta. Based on the rules for handling COVID-19 in China, when Jokowi arrived in Beijing, Wang Yi still had to undergo quarantine.

Antara reported that the ranks of the Indonesian Embassy in China were also surprised by the President's planned visit. They can only confirm after the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced in Jakarta.

The Garuda Indonesia (GIA-1) plane carrying President Jokowi, First Lady Iriana Jokowi, and his entourage landed at Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) on Monday, July 25, at around 21.30 local time (20.30 Western Indonesia Time) after flying seven hours from Jakarta.

Only a few minutes after setting foot in the Chinese capital, the news about Jokowi's visit published by one of the local media has already garnered nearly 60,000 likes from the audience. The news of Jokowi's arrival also graced the small screen in China.

Hopes and optimism from various circles in China and Indonesia are played over and over again by CGTN, the official Chinese state television station with international networks. Efforts to improve trade relations, investment, politics, build new models of cooperation, green industry, the G20 Summit, "Two Countries, Twin Park" and other issues became a mutual agreement, both when Jokowi met with Chinese President Xi Jinping and when he met Prime Minister Li Keqiang at the Diaoyutai State Guest Building, Beijing, Tuesday.

The pineapple export protocol has also become a new agreement in the momentum of Jokowi's visit. With this protocol, Indonesia can export pineapples to China. Indonesia has been waiting for this agreement since 2016.

Missed Points

However, several things have been missed in the talks between the two heads of state. The plan to repatriate 190 Indonesian students to China was not mentioned at all, either at the summit or at the ministerial level. Without the support of the holders of power and policies, it is impossible for the plan to return 190 students who have been suspended from their studies since COVID-19 was first discovered in Wuhan in early 2020 until now to be canceled.

Another point is about hundreds of merchant ships being stuck in Chinese ports as a consequence of the new regulations as of January 1, 2022, regarding imported food and beverage products. The export of food and beverages is an added value for Indonesia. Indonesia did experience a trade balance surplus of 1.12 billion US dollars with China during the January-April 2022 period.

The surplus was coming from exports of oil, gas, and mining products, not from products that provide value added to the industry in Indonesia. It is ironic because during that period the export value of Indonesian processed food and beverage products to China was only US$1.46 billion, a significant decrease of around 23.17 percent compared to the same period in the previous year which had reached US$1.90 billion, as shown by data released by the Chinese Ministry of Customs (GACC).

Xi Jinping Special Treat

Despite all that, Jokowi has listed himself as the only head of state or head of government who has managed to meet Xi Jinping and be especially entertained in Beijing since the holding of the Winter Olympics in early February. In Antara's note, Xi has received only a few foreign heads of state or government in Beijing since the COVID-19 pandemic. Xi did meet several heads of state or government in Beijing on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, but not specifically as he did with Jokowi.

Since early 2020, the top leadership of the Chinese Communist Party has also only once left mainland China during the 25th-anniversary celebration of Hong Kong's return to China which was coupled with the inauguration of the Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Administrative Region (HKSAR) John Lee on July 1.

This is where Jokowi's ingenuity is in reading Xi's signs. Xi's bold departure from his "nest", means that the tightening of the COVID-19 anti-pandemic health protocol in Beijing has begun to loosen. That's why Jokowi or perhaps the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan together with Foreign Minister Retno dared to make an offer for the visit even though Beijing was not yet fully ready, considering that it has only been 1.5 months since the lockdown status in the capital was lifted.

Indonesia's hopes and optimism for the presence of Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Bali in November are also starting to rise, even though Beijing has not yet been able to answer Jokowi's official invitation. Short and sudden is the key word of Jokowi and Xi's monumental meeting, considering that the visit on July 25-26 was only prepared in a matter of days. Compare this with Jokowi's visit to Japan and South Korea on July 27-28 which has been prepared since three months ago.

In addition to Coordinating Minister Luhut and Foreign Minister Retno, thumbs up to the Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun and the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing who have prepared for President Jokowi's arrival to China in a very short time. Tense and thrilling scenes were recorded at the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing in the seconds leading up to the visit.

Indeed, it is not the first time Jokowi has come to China, but this visit is not an easy job because it is carried out in a closed loop mechanism in Diaoyutai which of course is expensive. The Indonesian delegation accompanying President Jokowi has left Beijing to continue his trip to Japan and South Korea and then return to the country.

However, Ambassador Djauhari, Defense Attache First Marshal of the TNI Bayu Hendra Permana, Coordinator of Protocol and Consular Functions Victor Harjono, and other ranks of the Indonesian Embassy in Beijing who were the determining factors for the success of the visit had to spend seven days in an integrated quarantine facility as proscribed by the Task Force. China's COVID-19 Anti-Pandemic.

What about General Milley? I suppose he has an unaccomplished mission in Indonesia.

Tag # indonesia-china relation # china # south china sea # united states

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