In the realm of foreign policy, Indonesia adheres to the “one China” policy, recognizing the sovereignty of the People’s Republic of China (PRC, Tiongkok). However, whether favorably embraced or not, this stance presents specific challenges to Indonesia’s collaborative endeavors with Taiwan.
Based on the author’s perspective and extensive consultations with academics and critical stakeholders in Indonesian foreign policy, it is recommended that the Indonesian government adopt a more adaptable interpretation/flexibility regarding its “one China” policy. This adjustment is warranted due to the substantial and noteworthy growth observed in the bilateral cooperation between Indonesia and Taiwan, particularly in the economic and education domains.
In this context, flexibility details that the Indonesian government adopt policies that acknowledge Taiwan as an independent and sovereign entity while concurrently recognizing the sovereignty of the PRC. As the author proposed, this approach aligns with the guiding principle of Indonesia’s “free and active” foreign policy. By embracing this perspective, Indonesia could effectively balance its diplomatic engagements with Tiongkok and Taiwan, fostering an environment conducive to bilateral cooperation and engagement.
The imperative of recognizing Taiwan as a sovereign entity within the discussed framework is intrinsically tied to the prevailing realities whereby numerous Indonesian migrant workers and students are in Taiwan. Drawing upon data from the Indonesian Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI), the number of Indonesian workers in Taiwan has consistently increased annually since 2016.
Notably, the number of Indonesian migrant workers in Taiwan rose significantly from 177,000 workers in the past to 290,000 workers in 2020. Furthermore, the most recent BP2MI data indicate a substantial surge in the number of Indonesian migrant workers moving to Taiwan, reaching 46,954 as of July.
This remarkable figure positions Taiwan as the primary destination for Indonesian migrant workers globally.
Within the Southeast Asian region, Taiwan is among the top three destinations for Indonesian students pursuing education overseas. The number of Indonesian students enrolled in Taiwanese institutions substantially increased from 5,074 in 2016 to 13,804 in 2020.
Moreover, projections indicate there will be a significant increase in Indonesian students enrolled in programs in Taiwan in the coming years.
These circumstances underline the interest Indonesia and Taiwan have in developing their partnership, necessitating the presence of more comprehensive and authoritative representation. In this regard, establishing the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia (KBRI) is highly desirable, rather than solely relying on the Indonesian Trade and Economic Office in Taipei (KDEI).
While it might present challenges to anticipate the establishment of an Indonesian embassy in Taiwan that could comprehensively address the requirements of Indonesian students and migrant workers, given Indonesia’s adherence to the “one China” policy, this author noted that this predicament could be mitigated through a more flexible interpretation of the policy. Indonesia could adopt a nuanced approach, by recognizing both Tiongkok and Taiwan as integral components and applying dual standards to both. Consequently, this approach would enable Indonesia to navigate the complexities associated with its diplomatic engagements, while simultaneously addressing the needs and interests of its citizens residing in Taiwan.
In this context, the concept of double standards pertains to recognizing Tiongkok by Indonesia (das sollen) while also recognizing Taiwan as a distinct entity (das sein). The act of “recognition” of Taiwan could be realized through the assignment of diplomats, although not equipped with diplomatic passports, to the KDEI. These diplomats would be responsible for addressing the multifaceted challenges encountered by Indonesian students and migrant workers. Acknowledging the strain on KDEI in effectively managing all aspects of support required by these individuals, the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs must provide substantial reinforcement by deploying diplomats to KDEI, despite without diplomatic passports. The author contends that this approach embodies the desired flexibility that Indonesia should adopt when interpreting its “one China” policy.
Ultimately, the author expresses the aspiration for the Indonesian government to adopt a neutral stance toward Taiwan, understanding that recognition inherently encompasses political implications that carry legal ramifications.
It is essential to recognize that the act of credit is not a fixed and unchanging state, but rather a fluid and evolving process. Hence, it would not be inappropriate if, at some point, the Indonesian government decides to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign state. This progressive perspective acknowledges the dynamic nature of recognition and highlights the potential for shifts in diplomatic positions.
M. Syaprin Zahidi is a research fellow at the Center for Asian Studies, University of Muhammadiyah Malang, Indonesia.
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