The renewal synergy of Indonesia's GMF and China's BRI
Updated 20:37, 15-Mar-2023
Djauhari Oratmangun
The renewal synergy of Indonesia's GMF and China's BRI

The renewal synergy of Indonesia's GMF and China's BRI.mp3


Editor's note: Decision Makers is a global platform for decision makers to share their insights on events shaping today's world. Djauhari Oratmangun is Indonesian Ambassador to the People's Republic of China and Mongolia. The article reflects the author's views and not necessarily those of CGTN.

One Chinese proverb says "if you want to be wealthy, build a road first." And in China I have myself witnessed that the saying is accurate. The China I knew 30 years ago and the China I see today are like two different worlds. One cannot deny that the infrastructure growth in China has given a boost to the economy and livelihood of its people. Ten years ago China proposed the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – the massive development and investment projects to interconnect China with the global market. Now China has signed Belt and Road cooperation agreements with 151 countries and 32 international organizations.

Indonesia is one of the two countries where Chinese President Xi Jinping first introduced the BRI to the world in the autumn of 2013 (Editor's note: Xi proposed to build the "Silk Road Economic Belt" in Kazakhstan in September, and the "21st Century Maritime Silk Road" in Indonesia in October). With more than 13,000 islands, 270 million population and geographically strategic position, the Indonesian government has a vision to connect and integrate the islands spread across the country. In 2014, Indonesian President Joko Widodo already put the vision as the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF). The GMF serves as the Indonesian policy to enhance the maritime infrastructure and connectivity and build the country's identity as a maritime nation.

Here, both the BRI and GMF profoundly share one important key word: connectivity. Therefore, in October 2018, Indonesia and China committed to synergizing the mutual complementary strengths of GMF and BRI. The cooperation scope extends from the policy, infrastructure connectivity, trade and investment, industrial cooperation, to people-to-people exchanges.

One of the flagship projects under the BRI-GMF synergy is the Jakarta – Bandung High-Speed Railway (HSR). This HSR will reduce the commute time between the two cities to 40 minutes and is the first one in Southeast Asia. We expect the train could be launched within this year. The synergy also covers the cooperation outside Java Island.

A comprehensive inspection train running on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway trial section to conduct inspection in Bandung, Indonesia, November 8, 2022. /Xinhua
A comprehensive inspection train running on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway trial section to conduct inspection in Bandung, Indonesia, November 8, 2022. /Xinhua

A comprehensive inspection train running on the Jakarta-Bandung High-Speed Railway trial section to conduct inspection in Bandung, Indonesia, November 8, 2022. /Xinhua

Under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Corridor, both China and Indonesia have planned to develop four economic corridors, namely, North Sumatra as economic and business hub, North Kalimantan as energy and mineral hub, North Sulawesi as Pacific Rim and economic hub, and Bali as regional technology and innovation hub. Besides these four economic corridors, the synergy has also created cooperation for the development of the project "Two Countries, Twin Parks," waste management, power plant, sea port, 5G technology, special economic zone, medical technology, and renewable energy.

If we want to know the actual impact of the synergy of the BRI and GMF, we can also look at the numbers and compare them. Based on the data from China's Ministry of Commerce and China's Foreign Ministry, the two-way trade between China and Indonesia in 2013 reached about $52.45 billion, and last year it already amounted to $149.1 billion, a substantial increase of 184 percent. 

As for the investment sector, in 2013 China ranked the 12th among Indonesia's foreign investors with the investment realization equaled to nearly $297 million and 411 projects. By 2022, China has become our second largest foreign investor with 2,117 projects and total investment of $8.2 billion, which is almost 28-fold more than it was 10 years ago.

Such is the advantage from the synergy of GMF and BRI that last year both governments already renewed the MOU on cooperation on the GMF and the BRI and formulated a Plan of Action for Strengthening the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between the People's Republic of China and the Republic of Indonesia (2022-2026) to promote their cooperation under the synergy of the two projects.

In a bigger perspective, ASEAN and China have already synergized the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025 and the BRI in November 2019. This would allow China and ASEAN to work closer and contribute more towards the global connectivity and sustainable development in the region.

As Indonesia assumes the chairmanship of ASEAN this year under the theme of "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth," it would like to unleash the potential of ASEAN as the engine of growth of the Asia-Pacific region. In order to realize that potential, Indonesia will hold a flagship event named the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Infrastructure Forum towards the ASEAN Outlook on Indo-Pacific (AIPIF) from September 6 to 7, 2023.

The AIPIF will have the theme of Propelling the Next Wave of Sustainable Infrastructure. It could complement the synergies between GMF and BRI as the AIPIF will also focus on the infrastructure projects including green infrastructure, digital transformation, and production hub and supply chain. This event will showcase the best physical infrastructure projects in need of financing and facilitate the stakeholders in delivering commitments and deals for investment in the infrastructure projects.

At the end of the day, I believe that we could go even beyond than what we have today. Synergizing the BRI and GMF indeed brings mutual benefits to our two countries. For China, the synergy opens more development and accelerates the economy. The same thing goes for Indonesia. The improvement in infrastructure can elevate Indonesia's competitiveness and economic growth. With Indonesia being the chairman of ASEAN, I do hope more Chinese stakeholders could take part in the AIPIF.

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