Jakarta: Indonesia and China are two countries that have been friends for a long time. Both of them help each other and work hand in hand in overcoming various problems, including during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Medcom.id had the opportunity to interview the Chinese Ambassador to Indonesia Lu Kang at his residence in Jakarta on May 24, 2022.
Ambassador Lu Kang gave his views on Indonesia-China relations so far, and discussed various regional and global issues.
Q: the relations between China and Indonesia have been established for centuries, how do you see the bilateral relations between our countries?
Ambassador Lu Kang: Basically the bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia is in good shape. So actually it's not only a great honor but also a great pleasure for me to serve as China Ambassador to Indonesia. If you look back to the past couple of years, you can see that this relationship continues to be developed on almost all fronts. You could see very frequent exchanges at various levels, especially at the top level, between our two countries. And you could also see the rapid increase in the trade volume and the exchanges between people to people between our two countries.
But I have to say that we might have to look at this bilateral relationship not only for our two countries per se but maybe in the broader context. China and Indonesia are both very important developing countries, so this bilateral relationship could set a good model for the close coordination and cooperation between developing countries. And Indonesia is a very important ASEAN country and a very important neighbour of China, so this good bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia could also be part of our joint efforts to establish a community for a shared future. An Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country, bilateral relationship between China and Indonesia could also be a good reflection of China's relationship and cooperation with the Muslim countries in general.
I don't know whether you are aware that actually about a couple of months ago, this year, for the first time the Chinese Foreign Minister attended the Ministerial Meeting of OIC and in that meeting he initiated that China and all the Islamic countries should be partners in promoting closer cooperation, in promoting more stability and security, in promoting development and prosperity and the last but not least we should be partners in promoting mutual learning from each other and exchanges of civilizations. So if you look at that in a bigger picture, China and Indonesia's relationship could be very important but I can tell you it could also be very challenging for me to serve as China Ambassador here because our leaders and our people could be very demanding.
Q: In your view, what is the pinnacle of our relations, the most highest achievement of our relations so far?
Ambassador Lu Kang: As I said, in general is in good shape. You can see developments, very quick developments almost on all fronts. For example, at the high level, you can see very frequent exchanges between our two presidents. President Xi Jinping and President Jokowi have already met about 10 times. Even in the context of COVID-19 like today, they had very frequent contacts through telephone conversations or in any other forms.
And you can also see that the trade volume between China and Indonesia increased very much. I think China has been Indonesia's biggest trade partner in the past 9 consecutive years. In the past 6 consecutive years, China has been the number one destination for Indonesia's exports. And for the past 3 years, China has been the third biggest investor in Indonesia. So you could see this rapid progress has benefited our two peoples.
But another thing I have to stress is that sometimes even difficulties and challenges could become opportunities for enhancing our bilateral relationship. That reflects the resilience of this bilateral relationship. For example, when COVID-19 came, nobody knew what it was. But you can see the very quick mutual assistance between our two countries, between our peoples. And actually our joint efforts in combating, in dealing with COVID-19 has been a big part in our bilateral relationship. So actually I am proud of that but we know that there are still great potentials for us to work together.
Q: So our trade volume is increasing significantly even during COVID?
Ambassador Lu Kang: Yes, even during COVID. Last year, according to the stats from the Indonesian government, it was already around $110 billion. According to our stats, it was already $120 billion.
Q: Both China and Indonesia are very active in the international community, in this geopolitical situation that is changing rapidly, how does China anticipate something like that? for example, the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Ambassador Lu Kang: Actually we still believe that the pursuit of peace and prosperity is still the common goal for all people around the world. But you are absolutely right, that is something we are supposed to worry about in today's world. There are always efforts, we can always see efforts every now and then, every here and there, that try to intensify the contradictions around the world. There are even practices that try to engage in block confrontations and camp confrontations. So these kinds of practices actually add to the tension, add to the difficulties of today's world.
And you could also see, actually, the irresponsible policies by some governments in the macropolitics that have already caused turbulence around the world, the world market, especially we could look at the ramifications for developing countries.
What worries us even more is that there is a tendency these days that some countries would like to change the 'rules of game'. For example, you could always hear some countries these years, they would cry for what they term as the 'rules-based international order'. So when you ask those governments "What kind of rules?", "How do you define these rules?", they will never give you an explicit answer.
According to our views, when you say the international rules, it should be the rules that are universally accepted by the world, by all countries around the world.That should be the United Nations Charter. But when you ask those countries whether the rules refer to the United Nations Charter, they will never give you a definite yes on that. So this is the kind of tendency, a very dangerous tendency, that all countries should be very vigilant.
So in this kind of complicated situation, China and Indonesia as important members of the international community, especially we are important developing countries, we have our responsibilities to preserve the charter of the United Nations and to safeguard the common interest of the developing countries. So we have a lot to do.
Q: As the new ambassador to Jakarta, what kind of form of diplomacy do you think is the most suitable to improve our bilateral relations?
Ambassador Lu Kang: There are a lot of things to do as I said the job could be very challenging and demanding. But basically there are 3 areas that we focus on. First, to promote even further the close ties between our two countries especially in the economic, trade, and investment area. We should try to accomplish, in high quality and in good time, those joint ventures and the great projects. And we have to bring about more tangible results, accomplishments to the public that could benefit the public.
Secondly, I would like to enhance more mutual understanding and mutual knowledge of our two peoples. It's always very important actually to strengthen people-to-people exchanges because that is the basis of our bilateral relationship.
And about the third dimension, we always have to keep in mind that China and Indonesia are very important players in today's international arena. So, we have to work together on all those multilateral fora to advocate those important agendas for the developing world. This year, Indonesia is going to host the G20. It's a big event. It's a big event not only for Indonesia. I told my Indonesian colleagues that it's also a big event for China, for ASEAN countries, for developing countries and a successful G20 summit is also important for all countries in today's world.
Q: Since you mentioned the G20, what do you think about the Indonesian presidency so far?
Ambassador Lu Kang: My colleagues in the Indonesian government have worked very hard. Yesterday, I was in Foreign Minister Retno's office. We had a good chat. One of the topics was on G20. I appreciate very much actually how hard our Indonesian colleagues have worked, especially at this difficult juncture.We have a lot of issues that we have to deal with, especially there are always forces that try to complicate the focus of this year's G20 agenda. So we appreciate that, But not only that, we've already told our Indonesian colleagues that China will work together with our Indonesian colleagues to make this year's G20 a big success.
Q: About that difficult juncture, what do you think about Indonesia's decision to invite Ukraine and Russia at the same time?
Ambassador Lu Kang: There are two things that I told my Indonesian colleagues. It's true that some people would like to introduce other topics, topics outside the very nature of G20. G20 is a platform for economic and financial issues. But you have already seen the efforts or attempts by some other countries to introduce something irrelevant in our view to the G20 topics. But so far Indonesia has been very persistent in its principled position that this forum should be focused on what it is supposed to be.
Secondly, I told my Indonesian colleagues that China will always back up our Indonesian colleagues in hosting a successful G20 summit. There are a lot of issues that we have to deal with. Many countries are already in some financial, economic difficulties, So we need more coordination by economies, especially major economies, to coordinate their macro policies to help the recovery, the sustainable recovery for all countries.
So you know that the Indonesian government insisted that Russia should be invited to the G20.They are right. It's a correct decision. China supports that. And definitely we also told our Indonesian colleagues that we will be with them to make the topics not diverted away from its nature.
Q: China took a strong stance toward the West, especially the United States about the Ukraine-Russia crisis, what makes China take that stance?
Ambassador Lu Kang: I can tell you that China never tries to categorize countries according to differences in ideology or whatever values as some people would like to say. We actually make our own judgement and take our own policies and approaches based on basically facts and principles. When I talked to Foreig Minister Retno yesterday, she reiterated that Indonesian foreign policy is rules-based, principles-based and principles-oriented. I highly appreciate that. That's also the case with China.
So, we are not against a group of countries or certain countries. We are against wrong practices and wrong attempts by some countries in today's world. For example, some countries these days would like to try to intensify some contradictions. They engage themselves in block confrontations and camp politics. That has brought about not only difficulties but sometimes disasters for people from countries around the world. If you look back to the past decades, after the end of the cold war, you could see how many wars have been evocated among other countries. By the way, many of them are Islamic countries and Muslim countries. So, it's just immoral to pursue this kind of geopolitics at the costs, the casualties of innocent people around the world.
So, China is against that. China definitely will take, we have already taken, but we definitely will continue to take a strong stance against those wrong practices. Also we are against practices that try to smear other countries.
Q: Still regarding the G20, many countries, especially the West, are refusing to engage with Russia in Bali this November, what do you think about that kind of boycott?
Ambassador Lu Kang: First, like I said G20 is a platform for discussions among major economies on coordination of macro politics. So in this world, we might have challenges every now and then, every here and there. In their logic, should there be anything coming out, should there be any incident, then we should complicate the agenda or the focus of G20. I don't think that's the case.
Secondly, all members of G20 are equal members. Nobody is in the better or higher position than anyone else. To try to expel the others, if that's the case, they just can't.
After the end of the cold war, how many wars were waged against other countries, especially wars without the authorization of the Security Council of the United Nations. So those who waged those wars, should they also be expelled from all multilateral forums? That's the question that those countries should ask themselves.
Q: Regarding the South China Sea, is there any progress regarding a peaceful way to solve the problems between China and the claimant countries?
Ambassador Lu Kang: I think that's the wish not only for China but for all the countries neighboring the South China Sea. We would like to make it a sea of peace, a sea of prosperity, a sea of unity.
This year actually marked the 20th anniversary of DoC. Under this framework, I think countries in this region, I mean China and ASEAN countries, basically have managed in maintaining peace and security and stability in this region. And countries that have different claims or have some disputes whether there are territorial or jurisdictional issues, basically could set aside those differences and focus on common development, common interest for the people in this region. So I think that's the basic approach that we should stick to.
And it's also my understanding that China and ASEAN countries are also intensifying discussions and negotiations on CoC that could provide some of the basis for countries in this region to manage their relationship and to handle some of the differences. So, the common wish of the countries in this region is to benefit from that, from this kind of cooperation. That serves the interest not only for people in this region but actually for the world at large. And we hope countries outside this region respect that.
Q: About the Belt and Road Initiative, that initiative is one of the highlights of our bilateral relationship, China and Indonesia.
Ambassador Lu Kang: Actually it was in Indonesia President Xi Jinping initiated that initiative.
Q: Could you describe what China and Indonesia can get from this initiative?
Ambassador Lu Kang: Well we have already gotten a lot. I've already mentioned one example, our trade volume, especially the rapid increase in our trade volume. And also you could look at those joint projects between China and Indonesia. Many projects.
Actually I went to visit the Jakarta-Bandung high-speed railway. Not only does the project facilitate the flow of goods and the people, it also facilitates economic growth. But do you know that it also creates jobs? I learned that just that 142 kilometer line, after the completion of the project, would create more than 5 thousand jobs along the line. Not mentioning many other ramifications. So, those are tangible results that could benefit our two peoples.
But another thing that is almost as important is that we have already come up with this good practice that two developing countries, two partners, through the Belt and Road Initiative, could discuss together, work together and benefit together. So that's why it's already been about 9 years ever since the Belt and Road Initiative was tabled and it has become more and more attractive. Today around there are more than 140 or around 150 countries and some 30 international organizations have already been partners through this Belt and Road Initiative.
Q: The City of Shanghai aims to return to normal life from June 1st next month, how is the current situation in Shanghai these days? Is China optimistic that the target could be achieved?
Ambassador Lu Kang: If you look at the situation, actually Shanghai is getting better. But you know that actually, although it's already been more than two years ever since the outbreak of COVID-19, no scientist, no medical expert is 100% clear about the very nature of it. It is still a mystery. So there are always chances that that could still cost casualties of people's lives.
Different countries, different governments have carried out different approaches in dealing with it. There are always some pros and cons. There are always some efforts to try to balance on the one hand how to manage or control the pandemic. On the other hand, how to try to minimize actually the costs to the economy and the social life. That's also the way the Chinese government is pursuing it.
For the Chinese government's will always put the highest priority: people's life. So that's why the policy in China has been people-oriented. If you look at the situation in China, we try our best to minimize the casualties from this COVID-19.
At the same time, we're also looking at good practices around the world and try to make our policies in controlling the pandemic be more targeted on scientific analysis.
In this way, we try to minimize the costs to social and economic life. Hopefully, we will come back to normal quickly.
Q: North Korea was also badly hit by COVID-19 recently, has China provided assistance to North Korea?
Ambassador Lu Kang: Of course we do. Yeah, actually, you know that we provide assistance not only to DPRK but to many other countries, especially our neighboring countries, including Indonesia. We help each other a lot.
We believe that actually. This is something that all countries should work together to deal with. We should help each other. We should not let alone any country, any individual.
Q: About the most recent issue, today, the quad nations are meeting in Tokyo, they say they want to meet to counter China's influence in the region, what do you say about that?
Ambassador Lu Kang: Actually, we've already talked about that. You know that in this region, Asia and the Pacific, I think most countries, including China and Indonesia, cherish peace, stability. And we still would like to continue to focus on the joint development for the prosperity and the benefits of all the countries and all the people in this region.
But it's also a matter of fact, there are always attempts from outside from some governments. They would like to make issues in this region. They would like to create tension in this region. They would like to create confrontation in this region.
And by doing that, they would like to try to divert the focus of countries in this region from economic development, from more cooperation in benefiting our peoples. Actually, that does not serve our interests. And it's for countries or governments in this region to be alert on that.
Q: Regarding Japan, there's some calls to reform the UN Security Council. Japan wants to become a permanent member and the United States seems to support that idea. What do you think about that?
Ambassador Lu Kang: China has always been a strong advocate for the reform of the United Nations, including its Security Council, but we always have to bear in mind what's the purpose for the reform.
In our view, the Security Council or the United Nations for years, does not reflect the reality that we have already had a great increase in the number of developing countries in this United Nations.
So the very purpose, in our view, of any reform should reflect the reality that there are more developing countries now. So we should increase the representation of developing countries, whether in the Security Council or in other organs of the United Nations.
Any reform should not be just to serve the interests of a group, a handful of countries for their own interests.
And any responsible government or responsible member of the United Nations when they make their decisions on the reform, when they design their policies on the reform of the United Nations, especially the Security Council, they should bear in mind that this is an issue for the interests of the vast majority of all the members of the United Nations. It should not be politicized for any single government's geopolitical agenda.
Q: So, about the reform, the most pressing issue, the most important issue is about the veto.
Ambassador Lu Kang: Actually, you have to look back to the structure of the Security Council and the voting power of the Security Council in the United Nations. Where it originated. There was a reason for how it came to be.
And it's fully understandable. It's fully understandable that there are members of the United Nations that have some concern over the abuse of veto power. That happens, especially during the Cold War years.
So if you look at actually all those proposals that are tabled in the United Nations concerning the reform of the Security Council or the United Nations as a whole, You could see that there are a lot of categories of issues interrelated to each other.
How you could accommodate the interests of the vast majority of the members of the United Nations. You have to combine them together, instead of just singling out one part, or another part that might serve only a part or even a handful of members, because they have their own priorities. They have their own politics.
So if things are taken apart, separately, and dealt with separately, definitely that will ruin the whole process of the reform of the United Nations as a whole.