Indonesian president-elect visits China after decade of close ties

BEIJING: Indonesia’s president-elect Prabowo Subianto is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing on Monday (Apr 1) for high-level talks, less than two months after winning the race to lead Southeast Asia’s biggest economy.

Prabowo is visiting at Xi’s invitation to discuss 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.

China becomes the first foreign nation Prabowo has visited as president-elect, ahead of Indonesia’s neighbours in the region, underlining the close partnership built up in the past decade under his predecessor, Joko Widodo.

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

But Jokowi’s first visit after his inauguration was to China, for an annual summit of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders in 2014. That was followed by six more through 2023.

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

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

Prabowo will also visit Japan on Apr 2 to 3, where he is set to meet Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and other officials, Japan’s chief Cabinet secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi said on Monday.

Japan and Indonesia are comprehensive strategic partners sharing fundamental principles and values, and it is hoped Prabowo’s visit will bolster close bilateral cooperation in a wide range of areas, Hayashi told a regular press conference.

In 2021, Prabowo and Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi signed a deal to facilitate defence equipment transfers in a meeting with their Japanese counterparts, as Japan seeks to expand military and economic cooperation with Southeast Asian nations to counter China.

Japan and Indonesia in December reached another deal to remove more trade barriers.

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