Along with China‘s strengthening roles within global political constellation, the debate over the policies produced by the country is always interested to be discussed. Some of China’s policies that catch the attention internationally are the One Child Policy and the latest mega project Belt and Road Initiatives.
To discuss China contemporary issues, especially in the social and economic sector, Institute of International Studies (IIS) of the International Relations Department Universitas Gadjah Mada organized the academic forum Beyond the Great Wall (BTGW) entitled “Contemporary Chinese Social-Economic Policy “(17/05). This third edition of the BTGW was carried out by M. Indrawan Jatmika, IIS researcher. As well as La Ode Muhamad Fathun, an International Relations lecturer in the Universitas Pembangunan Nasional ‘Veteran’ Jakarta.
Indrawan opened the BTGW forum by presenting the challenges on China’s 21st century demographics. Despite having the largest population in the world – around 1.4 billion people, Indrawan shows the data where population growth rate is at an alarming condition. The child birth rate of only 1.18 children per woman is very far from the ideal number of 2.1 children per woman.
In the forum that was held in the Ruang Sidang Dekanat Fakultas Ilmu Sosial dan Ilmu Politik, he argued that there are two main factors that drive the population decline in China, namely: (i) the implementation of one child policy or the policy of permitting only one child per family; (ii) rapid economic growth that led to a very high rate of urbanization. The two factors are intertwined and resulted in a condition where modern families tend to be reluctant to have children due to the strong implementation of one child policy. Further, many considered children to become economic burden because of the rising costs of education and property ownership in China today.
As a result, China experiences what is known as the ageing population – where the productive age is fewer that the elderly population. China’s rising economic could be threatened if it lack adequate supply of labor. On the other hand, the majority of Chinese who are a sole child resulted on various social problems. Among other things, the level of abortion/murder of girls increased as boys are more expected, the male leftovers phenomena or male population surpluses that led many to become unmarried singles and created an individualistic society.
To deal with those population problems, the Chinese government revised the one child policy to become two child policy in 2016, which allowed each family to have 2 children. Unfortunately, the reluctance to have children has already set a trend among young families.
Indrawan added that the Chinese government already started to look at artificial intelligence-based robot to overcome the labor scarcity in several industrial sectors such as in Foxconn, which is a manufacturer of electronic components for Apple’s products.
The second speaker, La Ode Muhamad Fathun compared China’s mega BRI Project with Indonesia’s Maritime Fulcrum in the era of Joko Widodo. Fathun compared the two policies through the philosophical, methodological and practical aspects.
Philosophically, Fathun explores that both the Maritime Fulcrum and the BRI are rooted from the traditional values of each countries. The Maritime Fulcrum concept, for example, is actually a redefinition of a maritime-oriented policy that has always existed in every era of the presidency. In Joko Widodo’s era, the Maritime Fulcrum borrowed the principles Sukarno’s Trisakti – politically strong, economically independent, cultural personality – and contextualized through discourses such as territorial sovereignty, blue economy, and maritime state identity. Meanwhile, the BRI shows the transformation of the “tian” (heavenly) meaning in the traditions of Confucianism and Taoism to become the “Chinese Dream” with the sea and trade considered as instruments that encourage the realization of that dream.
Thus, methodologically, the BRI can be said to be expansive. According to Fathun, this is reflected on how BRI’s logic works, secures and builds sea and land trade routes with China as the final destination, so that it becomes the center of the global economic turnover. The BRI is not only intended to maintain China’s sustainability by ensuring the flow of energy and food supplies, but also to strengthen China’s position in international politics.
This is different from the Maritime Fulcrum policy that tends to be cooperative. Both China and Indonesia realize that behind a great economic potential, sea management also requires significant costs. Unfortunately, Indonesia does not have as much revenue as China, so it relies on cooperation with other countries for sea management, especially with China. Fathun highlighted Indonesia-China cooperation project’s values in the maritime sector, which in 2017 reached 206 Trillion Rupiah, where the two countries had 24 bilateral agreements related to sea management. Unsurprisingly, Indonesia tends to hold its voice in international forums when it comes to China’s sensitive issues, such as Xinjiang.
In practice, the BRI and Maritime Fulcrum have their respective challenges. The challenges facing China in general are the contradictions from its surrounding countries such as Japan, Philippines, Vietnam, India and the United States regarding the implementation of BRI project, being considered to threaten the geopolitics of the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Meanwhile, the challenges faced by Indonesia tend to be internal, such as the conditions of inter-agency relations that are still filled by sectoral egos, the amount of budget needed for sea management, to the threat of non-traditional security such as illegal fishing.
Writer: Alifiandi Rahman Yusuf
Editor: Angganararas Indriyosanti
Translator: Ilham Adamy