[Conference] THE 11TH SINGAPORE GRADUATE FORUM ON SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES

THE 11TH SINGAPORE GRADUATE FORUM ON SOUTHEAST ASIAN STUDIES 12–14 JULY 2016

The 11th Asian Graduate Forum is one of ARI's flagship events, a three-day workshop for graduate students who work on Southeast Asia. Held toward the end of the Asian Research Scholars Programme 2016, the Forum provides a platform for postgraduate students who are at an advanced stage to present their work, and also to communicate and interact, as they mature into the next generation of academic leaders. The participants include ARI's Asian scholars, as well as graduate students from Singapore and other parts of the world. The unifying factor is that the research is on Southeast Asia, although the sessions are organised thematically around issues in Asian dynamics of religion, politics, economy, gender, culture, language, migration, urbanism, science and technology, population and social change, etc. In addition to student presentations, three experts of the region share their insights on challenges and issues facing contemporary social science scholarship in Southeast Asia. This year, keynotes will be delivered by professors J. Neil Garcia (University of the Philippines), Mary Beth Mills (Colby College), and Henk Schulte Nordholt (Leiden University, KITLV).

Between Realpolitik and Ideology: Indonesia’s Engagement with China and Yugoslavia, 1955-1965 Xie Kankan University of California–Berkeley, USA

Abstract:

Beyond the power perimeters of Washington and Moscow, the impact of the Cold War was not only vividly felt among countries directly involved in bloc confrontations, but also particularly meaningful to those trying to “escape” the systemic constrictions imposed by the superpower-driven bipolarity. Indonesia, among many other newly independent states, struggled to seek for a suitable middle road to carry on its unfinished nation building and to develop its troublesome economy. Besides closely engaging itself with states that shared a similar post-colonial identity, Indonesia was enthusiastic in building connections with a wide array of countries with disparate ideological orientations. Ostensibly, with its strong emphasis on practical objectives rather than moralistic concerns, Sukarno’s diplomacy falls into the category of realpolitik. In the meantime, however, it was noteworthy that Indonesia’s domestic politics underwent a clear radicalization process under Sukarno’s left-leaning leadership, which followed a relatively consistent ideological trajectory.

In this paper, I try to approach such questions through scrutinizing Indonesia’s engagement with China and Yugoslavia, two anomalies of the socialist camp in terms of their complicated relationship between each other and the unique positions in relation to the US-USSR rivalry. Given Indonesia’s close interactions with both China and Yugoslavia on the one hand, and the increasingly deepening rift between Beijing and Belgrade on the other, many interesting questions could be raised. Instead of adopting the traditional superpower-centric perspective, this research aims to provide an additional angel to the interpretation of the power struggles within the Third World by examining the trilateral relations between Indonesia, Yugoslavia, and China from 1955 to 1965. I argue in this paper that Indonesia’s middle road was less of between capitalist and socialist as it proclaimed than between realpolitik and ideology, which closely intertwined with the country’s domestic politics. I demonstrate that against the backdrop of the Cold War bipolar politics, there were also fierce competitions for leadership inside the seemingly “unaligned” Third World. Such competitions might not be ideologically driven in the traditional bipolar sense, but fueled with a strong sense of alignment among the lesser powers through extensive ideological debates over self-identity and the multiple potential alternatives to survival under the dominant bloc politics.

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