With the launch of projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Indonesia, the development of bilateral economic and trade relations between China and Indonesia has been accelerated and cooperation areas have been expanded. The high-speed rail project is an important part of the cooperation between China and Indonesia. The high-speed railway that connects Jakarta and Bandung is a landmark project of the BRI, which requires neither an official loan guarantee nor funding from Indonesia.
On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Founding of the People’s Republic of China, the Global Times sat with the Indonesian Ambassador to China Djauhari Oratmangun at his residence in Beijing to talk about his perspectives of the key elements for bilateral ties.
Talking about bilateral ties, the ambassador started with badminton, which plays an important role in building people-to-people friendship. As the national sport of Indonesia, and the nation’s most popular sport, badminton has brought great accomplishments to Indonesia. Most of the Indonesian players are of Chinese origin.
From Rudy Hartono Kurniawan, the former Indonesian badminton star with Chinese roots, who won the men’s singles title at the prestigious All-England Championship eight times, to Liem Swie King, the former Indonesian badminton player who excelled from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, and won the All-England Championship in 1978, 1979 and 1981.
The ambassador said that a lot of people from China’s Fujian Province emigrated to Indonesia a long time ago and they brought with them their beloved sports such as badminton. “That is the reason why badminton is very popular in Indonesia and during the period when both countries were playing badminton so good, some of the players came to China and became a coach here and played as a Chinese player during that time,” he said.
In June 1953, the Indonesian Chinese organized a sports tour group to perform in China. The badminton team was composed of famous Indonesian stars such as Wang Wenjiao and overseas Chinese youths. The following year, Wang went back to China to play badminton and under his active promotion, Fujian Province established China’s first provincial badminton team in November 1956.
Meanwhile, in the early 1960s, the former world champion Tang Xianhu returned to China with Indonesia’s badminton skills. He further developed the skills and formed their own unique technical style. In 2008, Lin Dan, coached by Tang XianHu, won the badminton Men’s Singles Championship in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
“The people of both countries love to play badminton and we have established this relationship a long time ago,” Oratmangun said. “Both countries won World Cup championships. We exchanged players. So, this is a good thing that happened between China and Indonesia. Even jokingly, I used to say, ‘We are not a badminton player, we are a ‘goodminton’ player, because we both play badminton very good,'” he said.
First presidential visit
When the Indonesian President Joko Widodo was just inaugurated back in October 2014, his first international visit was to China during the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in November 2014. Although Ambassador Oratmangun was the Indonesian Ambassador to Moscow at that time and only witnessed this occasion on TV, he was touched by the determination to build up friendship by the leaders of both countries.
“From that perspective, I do believe at that time that the bilateral relationship between Indonesia and China was strengthened. I didn’t know that I will become ambassador here in China,” said Oratmangun. After the first state visit in 2014, President Widodo visited China during the APEC Summit in 2016 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province and he later attended the BRI forum in 2017.
After Oratmangun was appointed as the Indonesian Ambassador to China, he soon had the opportunity to be the direct witness of the exclusive interactions between Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Indonesian President Widodo. “During his visit, Premier Li had the chance to discuss with my president about cooperation and it was quite amazing that the two of them had a private meeting that lasted for more than 30 minutes, and when they returned to the table for the formal meeting, they said, ‘We have already agreed on everything and let us continue for two or three minutes,'” the ambassador recalled.
One recent high-level visit that Oratmangun also participated in was when the Indonesian Vice President Jusuf Kalla visited China in April to attend the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing. “We have witnessed, on this occasion, how the BRI with the Global Maritime Fulcrum proposed by my president will bring benefits not only to Indonesia, the region, but also to the world, closing the gap between the rich and poor nations,” the ambassador said.
Ambassador Oratmangun has put people-to-people connections as the top priority of his work in China. One can see this from his active participation in cultural activities and open attitude towards media. He is the kind of person who talks freely with media and makes them feel at “home.” When you visit his residence, he will offer you the best Indonesian coffee. Also, he may have you sample the fresh durian from Indonesia that he keeps in his fridge. All of these efforts are a natural origin of his belief that people-to-people connections are important.
Although he only stayed in China for one year, he has been to many places in the country, talked with local people and tried different types of Chinese cuisines. He shared a story about his impressive experience at a restaurant in southeastern China.
“I went to a local restaurant and ordered fried noodles during my trip to Xiamen and Fuzhou, Fujian Province. Suddenly, I tasted the same noodles that I had when I was in elementary school in my hometown,” Oratmangun said. “Later I realized that was because a lot of people came to Indonesia from China and brought with them their local cuisine and opened restaurants in Indonesia.”
The ambassador said that Indonesia and China have close relationship, because people-to-people connectivity and social and cultural exchanges are there, which are the strong foundations for the bilateral ties. “If people create the strong foundation, I am quite sure that in the long run, the relationship will get stronger and stronger,” he said.