Indonesia Won’t Take Sides in US-China Row, Prabowo Tells TV

(Bloomberg) -- Indonesia’s President-elect Prabowo Subianto said his incoming administration will maintain an open foreign policy approach and not be drawn into choosing sides between the US and China as they compete for influence.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“We invite the US, the Japanese, the Koreans, the Europeans. The fact that we are friends with you doesn’t mean we can’t be friends with China, India, Russia,” Prabowo said in an interview with Qatar-based TV news network Al Jazeera released on Sunday.

“Our guiding philosophy is to be friends with all countries,” he said.

Prabowo’s comments come amid a protracted US-China trade war that’s heightened further after American President Joe Biden is set to quadruple tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles among several measures. China’s leader Xi Jinping, meanwhile, has been on an European tour that’s seen as an attempt to drive a wedge between the bloc and the US by offering economic opportunities.

Indonesia has long maintained an open foreign policy approach, even under incumbent leader President Joko Widodo. Prabowo, who will take over the post in October, said he will continue the country’s longstanding stance of non-alignment. Despite meeting Xi in April in what was his first overseas state visit after being declared president-elect, Prabowo also went to Japan — a key US ally — suggesting that he will continue the middle-of-the-road strategy in navigating the US-China rivalry.

China is Indonesia’s biggest economic partner and is pouring more than $7 billion into the nation’s commodity processing capacity.

Jokowi has maintained a non-confrontational approach over the disputed South China Sea — though Beijing’s claims cut into Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone — and Xi would prefer Indonesia continue that approach. Prabowo said during his campaign that he wouldn’t pick sides in the dispute.

In the Al Jazeera interview, Prabowo also pledged to push through his free lunch program to more than 80 million children, which he also expects to create employment for women and small businesses, despite criticisms the initiative could eat into the country’s budget. Prabowo said that funding shouldn’t be a concern and he has studied how to allocate resources without elaborating in the interview. “I am very convinced,” he said.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.