Opportunities in China-Indonesia Sports Relationship

Authors: Dr.Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat andYeta Purnama*

Entering its 71 years of diplomatic relations, bilateral cooperation between China and Indonesia is intensifying.

In the economic sphere, China has been Indonesia’s largest trading partner for eight consecutive years and the volume of Chinese trade with Indonesia reached USD 77.4 billion in 2018.

China has also become the largest investor in Indonesia through massive infrastructure projects under the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Both countries have additionally signed a deal to promote the use of their currencies in their trade agreements, ditching US dollars.

Given the ongoing pandemic, both countries also agreed last year to expand their ties in the field of health. Beijing has pledged to boost cooperation with Indonesia in fighting the coronavirus by providing vaccines and supporting Indonesia to become a hub for vaccine production.

In the midst of the growing ties, one particularly important sector needs to be explored, namely the sports sector. While cooperation in this sphere has been maintained by China and Indonesia,further possibilities need to be explored.

China-Indonesia sports cooperation, so far

Over the years, Jakarta and Beijing have actually maintained ties in the realm of sports.

The relationship has taken place in the form of exchanging knowledge between athletes, where a number of Indonesian athletes have visited China to learn about sports management and vice versa. Such exchanges have been, for example, carried out by Indonesia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports (Kemenpora), in the badminton sector.

In addition, the countries have also cooperated in Sport Entertainment, especially exchanging knowledge on the best techniques to win games.

Badminton is one area that China-Indonesia sports have focused on. In 1992, for example, Indonesian badminton athlete, Susi Susanti, won a gold medal at the Olympics in Barcelona. Her success in defeating Bang-Soo Hyun, a badminton player from South Korea, could not be separated from the intensive and valuable training provided by Chinese coach, Liang Chiu Hua.

Apart from Susi, Alan Budikusuma, who was trained by Chinese coach, Tong Sin Fu, also won a gold medal at the same Olympics.

Likewise, the ties have also taken place in the form of providing support to one another in hosting sporting events. For example, in 2019, China supported Indonesia’s goal to host the 2032 Olympics. In fact, it has also promised to offer full technical support so Indonesia can realise its ambition.

Opportunities to be explored

While cooperation in sports has been maintained, there are a number of possibilities that can be explored between Jakarta and Beijing to strengthen their ties.

Indonesian and Chinese athletes can continue to learn from one another. It is widely recognised that athletes from China are very disciplined and diligent in the sports they are involved in, giving them the ability to compete in the international arena. Research has shown that Chinese winning strategies and training facilities are two important elements that other countries can learn from China in regard to sports.

Another aspect to be learned from China is its experience in hosting major sports events. China has successfully hosted a number of international sporting events, such as the Beijing Olympics and the Great Wall Marathon. As Indonesia plans to host more sporting events in the future, learning from China can be one important alternative.

In the football industry, China and Indonesia share a similar vision to host the World Cup in the next few years. In this regard, China has launched an initiative to develop 70,000 football fields and 20,000 new training centres. This will be complemented by the construction of a football stadium that can accommodate 10,000 people by 2030. The construction of these sports facilities is part of China’s attempts to achieve its ambition, the World Cup Dream in 2050. That is to say, China would host the World Cup in 2050.

In the meantime, Indonesia has been making strenuous attempts to host the World Cup. Last year, for instance, the Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Culture issued a Ministerial Regulation No.1 2020 concerning the Roadmap for the Acceleration of National Football Development.

Similar to their Chinese counterparts, Indonesia has begun to implement several strategies, such as renovating several stadiums and building five more new stadiums in preparation for next year’s FIFA U-20 World Cup. Indonesia also plans to create 245 footballpitchesin the next few years.

These shared goals should prompt both countries to strengthen their cooperation in the sphere of sport.

This can be achieved in various ways including opening up greater opportunities for knowledge exchange among Indonesian and Chinese athletes, as well as relevant sports actors.

The two countries can also hold regular sports conferences, which would enable both Beijing and Jakarta the opportunity to not only to share their experiences, but also to identify further opportunities to strengthen their cooperation.

*Yeta Purnama, student majoring International Relations at Universitas Islam Indonesia.

Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
Muhammad Zulfikar Rakhmat
Lecturer at Universitas Islam Indonesia and a researcher on China-Indonesia relations