Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto, who rode on anti-China sentiment in his failed runs against Joko “Jokowi” Widodo in two presidential elections, now appears to be getting cozy with Beijing.
China was one of the first countries Subianto visited after his surprise appointment as defense minister last October. The former opposition leader also coordinated efforts to secure personal protective equipment aid from China in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and then led welcoming ceremonies when equipment arrived in Jakarta in March and May.
Subianto has said nothing ill — at least publicly — of Beijing, despite an increasing number of encounters between Indonesian and Chinese vessels in waters north of the Natuna Islands, near Indonesia’s border in the South China Sea.
“We share the same determination — Indonesia sees China as a close friend, and we will work our best together to maintain peace and stability in the region,” Subianto said in May, in a rare public remark since taking office.
Some observers say Subianto is simply taking his new job seriously. But since he says little on defense policy, analysts have to look at the budget his ministry receives and the destinations of his overseas visits to get clues about Indonesia’s security plans.