14: Indonesia’s ‘Beauty Contest’: China, Japan, the US, and Jakarta’s Spatial Objectives

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This chapter examines the changing degrees of influence of the US and China in Indonesia by considering the influence of a third power, Japan. It argues that Indonesia is hedging against the US–China strategic competition, leveraging Japanese capital to attain greater benefits in the negotiations of Chinese capital and carefully detach Indonesia from US influence. First, through the Jakarta–Bandung high-speed railway, the chapter shows how Indonesia attained a better deal from China by leveraging Japan’s initial proposal. Second, it illustrates that the government has consistently followed Japan’s position to hedge against the US-led Freedom of Navigation Operations. Both cases illuminate how Indonesia has relied on Japan’s influence to carve out new state spaces in response to US–China strategic competition. This chapter ultimately demonstrates that, although US–China competition establishes parameters of action for other states, it does not determine outcomes. Jakarta’s project-specific hedging strategies in the context of the US–China rivalry demonstrate that it enjoys a measure of agency that can be translated into the achievement of spatial objectives.

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