Explaining Indonesia’s Constrained Engagement with the Belt and Road Initiative: Balancing Developmentalism against Nationalism and Islamism

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Abstract

Although Indonesia has agreed to collaborate with China on various infrastructure development projects related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), President Jokowi’s government has refrained from fully engaging with the initiative primarily because his regime needs to strike a balance between competing pathways to domestic authority. Democratic legitimacy aside, Jokowi’s authority is based on side payments to powerful oligarchs and political elites, development- based performance justification, welfare interventions, and nationalist ideology. His authority is mainly challenged by Islamist hardliners and populist nationalists whipping up anti-Chinese sentiment. On one hand, Jokowi’s developmental agenda pushes Indonesia toward engaging China and BRI. On the other, nationalism and rising anti-Chinese mobilization constrain this engagement, requiring the government to maintain its distance from Beijing to avoid undermining the regime’s overall domestic authority.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-347
Number of pages23
JournalAsian Perspective
Volume45
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Keywords

  • asymmetry
  • authority
  • Belt and Road Initiative
  • China
  • Indonesia
  • infrastructure
  • Jokowi
  • legitimation

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