The Limits of Populism: SBY and Jokowi’s Strategies on the South China Sea Issue

Klaus Heinrich Raditio, Ardhitya Eduard Yeremia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This chapter aims at demonstrating the limit of domestic populism in shaping Jakarta’s South China Sea (SCS) policy. In both eras of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (SBY) and Jokowi, the SCS has experienced heightened tension. China’s violation of Indonesia’s maritime rights in the Natuna waters took place during the two administrations. Nevertheless, SBY tended to conceal the incidents from the public eye. Having enjoyed the popular support from majority of the country’s political elements—including that of the Islamist hardliners—SBY had more room in managing Indonesia’s relations with Beijing. In particular, SBY dedicated his foreign policy to construct Indonesia’s role as regional leaders and honest broker in the SCS issue. Jokowi, on the other hand, excludes the hardliners from his administration which makes the management of the relations with Beijing more delicate. While Jokowi can no longer conceal the incidents in the Natuna waters from the public eye, he takes two measures. First, placating the public anxiety by showing a firm gesture in defending the country’s sovereign rights. Second, substantiating Jakarta’s maritime entitlement in the Natuna waters in diplomatic and defence realms. Since Jokowi government intends to secure the economic cooperation with China, the public fuss around the Natuna waters incidents is deemed unnecessary. In the current administration’s judgement, patriotic expression, must be steered by the government-not mass-driven-to ensure its focus and effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContributions to International Relations
PublisherSpringer Nature
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Publication series

NameContributions to International Relations
ISSN (Print)2731-5061
ISSN (Electronic)2731-507X


  • Indonesia
  • Nationalism
  • Natuna
  • Populism
  • South China Sea


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