China-US Tensions: Indonesia Maintains Neutrality 

Dependence on external superpowers is no new concept for Indonesia or Southeast Asia. As hostilities between China and the United States grow, questions have arisen regarding Indonesia’s strategic positioning. During the recent ASEAN Summit in Jakarta, Chief Investment Minister, Luhut Binsar Pandjaitan emphasised Indonesia’s pragmatic approach1. He stated that Indonesia is open to engagement with any nation willing to share its technological advancement and investments, whether that be the United States, China, or any other nation. This position was exemplified by Canada’s growing influence, as highlighted by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: “entering a new phase, namely as strategic partners”2. China and the United States maintain significant influence in the region and continue to support Indonesian growth. Nevertheless, the absence of their leaders from the summit prompts ASEAN, as a whole, to contemplate the future of their relations. Additionally, the publication of China’s controversial “Standard Map”, further complicates Indonesia’s assessment of its standings in China’s priorities.  


Indonesia has long advocated multilateralism and international cooperation through a deliberate non-alignment and neutrality stance, avoiding attachment to either the United States or China. President Joko Widodo in his closing speech called on all participants to transform the Indo-Pacific region into a “theatre of peace and inclusivity”3. With US President Joe Biden and President Xi Jinping both notably absent from the summit, ASEAN finds itself in a two-fold crisis; neglected by both superpowers, while also maintaining robust bilateral relationships with each. But, in a recent visit to Vietnam, Biden assured the international community that a cold war with China was not on the horizon4. Ultimately, Indonesia will continue to pursue a strategic omnidirectional approach, fostering peace and cooperation with all. This soft power approach will continue to safeguard strong and robust economic and bilateral ties without prioritising any one nation over another.

[1] Shofa, Jayanty. (2023a), “Indonesia is Too Big to Lean on Any Superpower: Minister”, Jakarta Globe, June 14. Retrieved:

[2] Shofa, Jayanty. (2023b), “Canada, ASEAN Become Strategic Partners as Trade Pact Talks Continue”, Jakarta Globe, September 7. Retrieved:

[3] Aqil, A. Muh. Ibnu. (2023), “ASEAN calls on EAS to press pause on conflict”, The Jakarta Post, September 8. Retrieved:

[4] Bicker, Laura. (2023), “US denies Cold War with China in historic Vietnam visit” BBC News, September 11. Retrieved:


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