Covid-19 and Indonesia-China Defence Relations: A Strategic Reset in the Making?


About the Webinar

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Indonesia-China relations have grown closer, including in defence relations. In recent months, Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto personally coordinated and welcomed medical supplies from China. Indeed, Indonesia was one of only twelve countries that received the initial batch of medical assistance from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Analysts note that there has been increased, albeit quiet, communication between the Indonesian and Chinese defence ministries since Mr Subianto’s visit to Beijing in December 2019. But the pandemic—and increased communication between the two armed forces—has not fundamentally changed the broader Indonesia-China defence relationship. Seen within the wider context of Indonesia’s defence diplomacy—from military procurement to joint exercises and educational exchanges—China remains significantly behind long-established partners like the United States, Australia, Singapore and others. Furthermore, given the domestic complexities of engaging China publicly, and the on-going maritime dispute over waters near the Natuna Islands in the South China Sea, institutionalized defence cooperation between the Indonesian armed forces and the PLA is unlikely to develop very quickly. Overall, the pandemic may have opened new channels of communication but will not catapult China into the ranks of Indonesia’s top defence partners.

This webinar is supported by Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

About the Speaker

Evan A. Laksmana is a Senior Researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has held visiting and research positions with the National Bureau of Asian Research, Sydney University’s Southeast Asia Centre, the Lowy Institute for International Policy, the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore. His scholarly research has appeared in the Journal of Contemporary Asia, Asian Security, Asia Policy, Asian Politics & Policy, Defense & Security Analysis, Defence Studies, Contemporary Southeast Asia, Journal of the Indian Ocean Region, Harvard Asia Quarterly and others. His policy essays have been published by The New York Times, Washington Post, Foreign Policy, Foreign Affairs, South China Morning Post, East Asia Forum and others. He earned his MA and PhD in political science from Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs as a Fulbright Presidential Scholar. He also holds a MS in Strategic Studies from Nanyang Technological University and a BA in political science (Cum Laude) from Parahyangan Catholic University.


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Sep 15 2020


10:00 am - 11:00 am