Asia Defense

China-Indonesia Military Ties in Focus With Defense Industry Meeting

The engagement highlighted ongoing activity in the defense aspect of bilateral relations in spite of lingering challenges.

China-Indonesia Military Ties in Focus With Defense Industry Meeting
Credit: Flicke/sbamueller

This week, Indonesia and China held the latest iteration of their defense industry talks. Beyond the engagement itself, the development also put the focus on the ongoing defense ties between Jakarta and Beijing, which have been moving along slowly in spite of the significant challenges that remain for both sides.

While Indonesia and China have long had a bilateral relationship, the defense aspect of ties has been strengthened gradually over the past few years in spite of challenges that remain, including with respect to the maritime realm (See: “What’s New About Indonesia’s ‘Push’ for South China Sea Patrols?”). Aspects of defense cooperation, such as deals on equipment and technology as well as some exchanges and dialogues, have been going on.

One of the aspects of defense cooperation is the Indonesia-China defense industry cooperation meeting. Following a 2011 agreement on pursuing defense industry collaboration, both sides held their first defense industry cooperation meeting in 2012, where they discussed general opportunities and challenges in the area as well as more specific ways to advance ties. Those meetings have since continued as part of the defense relationship.

This week, that aspect of the relationship was in the spotlight again with the holding of the seventh iteration of the Indonesia-China defense industry cooperation meeting. The meeting, held in Jakarta, was attended by officials as well as representatives from defense industry companies from both sides.

According to Indonesia’s defense ministry (KEMHAN), during the meeting, both delegations highlighted the capabilities of their defense industries as well as products and policies, while the two sides also discussed opportunities for future collaboration.

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On the Indonesian side, there was also the usual attempt to underscore the fact that such collaboration was rooted in Indonesia’s broader concern about strengthening its domestic defense industry. As I have detailed previously, that priority, which continues to be advanced under Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, has meant Jakarta developing its ability to procure military equipment on its own or in collaboration with other partners, with expectations on terms such as technology transfer and expertise sharing.

As is often the case with such meetings, few additional specifics were offered by either side on items that were discussed or outcomes or specific projects that were agreed upon. Nonetheless, in spite of the challenges that remain, as Indonesia and China continue their wider engagement across issues in the next few years, this aspect of ties will be an important part of that broader story to keep an eye on.