The superpower competition for power and influence between the United States and China will likely profoundly impact Asian politics and security in the 21st century. Already, while Chinese economic and military might are on the rise, emboldening its policymaking on issues like the South China Sea, the US has taken countermeasures to protect its regional interests. Washington has put into motion its so-called “pivot to Asia,” which has enhanced America’s economic, military and diplomatic investment to the region.
This is the regional environment that Indonesia is situated in nowadays and likely for the foreseeable future. Caught in the middle of this superpower competition, however, doesn’t mean that Indonesia is in a hopeless or unpredictable situation. It has a number of strategic options at its disposal.
This reality, let’s call it strategic flexibility, is the result of two things. First, over the last two decades, Jakarta has fairly consistently pursued a foreign policy of “friends with no enemies.” And second, Indonesia’s history isn’t marred by heated regional rivalries and enmity. As a result, Indonesia hasn’t strategically backed itself into a corner, limiting its options and choices. More to the point, it doesn’t have the foreign policy obstacles that countries like Japan and South Korea currently face.
Instead, at this point, Indonesia has relative freedom to make and implement the foreign policies it wants. In this sense, Indonesia’s com...