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What China’s protests mean for Indonesia

The protests in China from 25 to 27 November shocked the world. Various reports indicate that thousands of people participated in protests in and around Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Chengdu, and Wuhan.

Ten people died in an apartment fire in Urumqi, Xinjiang, as lockdown restrictions left their doors locked from the outside, sparking initial protests. While lifting those restrictions was the main goal of the protests, it eventually led to calls for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Protesters used white paper or plain white fabric as anti-censorship signs, denouncing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and calling for democracy and the right to free speech.

What caused these events?

A few things can be seen from this mass protest. It’s hard to imagine an event of this magnitude happening in China, where the last major protest involving the military took place more than 30 years ago. But these demonstrations are not unique to Beijing. In 2019, Hong Kong saw three months of pro-democracy demonstrations.

But last month’s protests came after heightened tensions across the country, when Xi Jinping, speaking at the 20th Communist Party Congress in October, said: “In responding to the sudden outbreak of Covid-19, we put the people and their Putting lives first and trying to prevent the recurrence of the epidemic. By adhering to the dynamic zero-Covid policy, cases have emerged, either from the country or abroad”.

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The statement illustrates China’s efforts to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, including imposing a strict lockdown. However, those efforts have led to the frustrations heard at the latest protests. Showing that certain groups have the audacity to legitimize the power of Xi and the CCP despite the re-election of the President.

When Xi Jinping was reappointed by Congress as General Secretary of the CCP. Next, the party representative spoke, “We must resolutely safeguard Comrade Xi Jinping’s core position in the Central Committee and the entire party, and fully implement Xi Jinping’s new era of socialism with Chinese characteristics.”

It will be interesting to see how this protest develops and what the Chinese government does next. Protests in Tiananmen Square continued for several days, leading to the CCP’s decision to use force to disperse the crowd, killing civilians and leading to mass arrests. Because of these actions, China has been subject to international sanctions, especially from the United States and other Western countries.

Unlike the crackdown on Tiananmen Square, the CCP’s handling of the Hong Kong protests did not use live ammunition or the military. Instead, Hong Kong security forces dispersed the protests using water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets. In the case of current events, Beijing realizes that deploying force, as it has done in the past, could damage Hong Kong’s reputation as a free zone under China’s “one country, two systems” principle. Therefore, with Hong Kong as an economic center, the sanctions will affect China.

Another step in cracking down on the Hong Kong demonstrations is the withdrawal of the extradition bill, a direct demand of the demonstrators. Hong Kong’s chief executive carried out the operation; however, there has been speculation that Beijing was behind the decision.

What’s next and the implications for Indonesia

Of course, it’s too early to say how these current protests will end. However, even if they escalate, Beijing may handle it as it did the 2019 protests. On the other hand, if the actions of the CCP cause loss of life and economic loss, more Chinese citizens will lose respect.

While these protests are likely to continue for some time, Beijing is likely to refrain from using force or violence and may slowly ease lockdown rules to prevent public sentiment from spreading. By doing so, the Chinese government and CCP can both maintain the legitimacy of the people and accelerate economic recovery.

There was also a wave of protests Australia and turkey And it may continue to spread to Indonesia, mainly due to the growing negative sentiment towards China.

According to the Indonesian national survey project conducted by the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in July 2022, which directly interviewed 1,600 different respondents covering economics, domestic and international politics, it revealed that nearly 25.4% of the Indonesian public believed that China’s The rise will have a negative impact on Indonesia. In contrast, only 30 percent believed that a relationship with China would be good for Indonesia.

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The survey also showed that Indonesia’s positive attitude toward China reached only 66 percent, compared with 76.7 percent five years ago. Not only that, but many are concerned about Indonesia’s participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project; as many as 41.5% of respondents believe that BRI will create a debt trap for other countries, including Indonesia. A belief, likely based on events in other countries, such as Sri Lanka’s construction of the Hambantota port, causing economic damage.

Negative perceptions of China also extend to people of Chinese descent in Indonesia. 41% of respondents believe that descendants of Chinese people are still loyal to China.

A recent study by LAB45 suggests that Xi’s re-election is a breath of fresh air for Southeast Asian countries, especially Indonesia. However, China’s recent protests may hinder its continued business in Indonesia, China’s closest ASEAN ally.

[Tasheanna Williams edited this piece.]

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Fair Observer.

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