Indonesia’s total trade might have slowed due to the global financial crisis in 2012, but bilateral trade between China and Indonesia, based on Chinese statistics, never stopped growing. China’s overall strategic ties are also growing strongly and may take a new turn this year, a Chinese envoy says.
Last year, according to Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Liu Jianchao, bilateral trade between the two Asian giants surged to a record US$66.21 billion, an impressive growth of 9.4 percent from $60 billion in 2011.
“Our trade has been growing for the last several years. According to our statistics, the trade was almost balanced. Now we are focusing on achieving our trade target of $80 billion by 2015,” Liu told The Jakarta Post during the Spring Festival reception at his residence in Jakarta on Tuesday night.
Recently, there was a change in Chinese leadership and new leader Xi Jinping will assume his post soon.
“We have new leadership in China and we will have new energy in our bilateral relations. We will have a high-level visit to Indonesia to strengthen our relations further this year,” Liu said.
Likewise, Liu said, China’s investments were also growing at a rapid pace.
“Our investments, excluding those in the non-oil sector, in Indonesia last year reached $600 million, a 90 percent increase from 2011. But sometimes, these investment figures can be misleading as the real figures do not reflect the official data,” Liu said.
Some Chinese investments, Liu continued, came through third countries such as Singapore. Though around 1,000 Chinese companies are currently operating in Indonesia, China is a relative newcomer in Indonesia.
“Unlike other investors like Japan, Singapore and other countries, we are relatively new to Indonesia. It will take some time to materialize our investment plans. We are committed to invest heavily in Indonesia,” Liu said.
Echoing a similar view, Indonesian Ambassador to China Imron Cotan said that Beijing was very serious about investing in Indonesia.
“We took Chinese investors to Indonesia on a road show recently. The results were very impressive. During the visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to China last year, Chinese investors pledged to invest $17 billion in projects related to infrastructure with the intention of supporting Indonesia’s Master Plan for the Acceleration and Expansion of Indonesia’s Economic Development [MP3EI],” Imron said recently.
Last year, China invested $77.22 billion in more than 140 countries, including Indonesia, and received foreign direct investment of $111.71 billion, mainly from Asian countries. The world’s most populous nation is currently sitting on a massive $3.24 trillion of foreign exchange reserves.
Last week, the Indonesian Chambers of Commerce and Industry announced that Indonesia would purchase 2,500 ships worth $5 billion from China to improve logistics and the distribution of goods across the archipelago. China will deliver the ships over five years starting from 2013.
In the defense sector relations have also been growing. Just last month, Deputy Defense Minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin visited China to take part in bilateral defense consultations and to boost cooperation between the two countries.
According to Liu, China has been working to increase its people-to-people contacts with Indonesia.
“Last year, around 600,000 Chinese tourists visited Indonesia. Half of them visited Bali. This trend will continue in coming years,” Liu said.
Indonesia and China follow different methods of calculating exports and imports, making trade figures a sensitive issue in Indonesia.
According to Chinese sources, China’s exports to Indonesia in 2012 reached $34 billion, making Southeast Asia’s largest economy China’s 14th-largest export destination comprising 1.7 percent of China’s total exports that reached $2.04 trillion. Meanwhile, Indonesia’s exports to the world’s second-biggest economy might reached around $32 billion, a tiny portion of China’s record $1.81 trillion in imports.
Based on the latest data from the Central Statistics Agency, Indonesia’s trade with China surged to $46.43 billion — comprising $19.59 billion in exports and $26.84 billion in imports — during the first 10 months of 2012, up 4.26 percent from $44.53 billion during the same period in 2011.