Should Indonesia Get Nervous as China Expands Media Influence in their Country?

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should indonesia get nervous as china expands media influence in their country

China is a rising global power that has been increasing its political, economic, and cultural influence in the world, especially in Asia. China has been using various strategies and tools to shape and spread its narratives and perspectives, and to counter and challenge the narratives and perspectives of its rivals and critics, such as the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations.

One of the key domains that China has been focusing on is the media, which plays a crucial role in informing and influencing the public opinion and the policy making in different countries and regions. China has been expanding and enhancing its media presence and outreach, both domestically and internationally, through its state-owned and state-controlled media outlets, such as the China Media Group, the China Daily, the Xinhua News Agency, and the CGTN.

Indonesia is a Southeast Asian country that has a strategic and complex relationship with China. Indonesia is the largest country and the largest economy in the region, and a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which is a key partner and a potential counterweight to China in the region. Indonesia is also a diverse and democratic country, with a population of about 270 million, and a media industry that is relatively free and vibrant.

Expansion

China has been expanding its media influence in Indonesia in recent years, through various methods and mechanisms, such as:

  • Establishing branch offices and social media accounts: China has established branch offices of its media outlets in Indonesia, such as Hi Indo! Channel, Xinhua, and Radio Mandarin Station, which produce and broadcast content in Bahasa Indonesia, the official language of Indonesia. China has also created social media accounts in Bahasa Indonesia, such as the Twitter account of Xinhua, which has more than 64,000 followers, and the Twitter account of the Chinese ambassador to Indonesia, Lu Kang, which has more than 17,000 followers.
  • Inviting and sponsoring journalists: China has invited and sponsored Indonesian journalists to visit and cover China, through various programs and initiatives, such as the China-ASEAN Journalists Exchange Program, the China-Indonesia Media Forum, and the China-Indonesia Belt and Road Media Cooperation Forum. China has also provided training and scholarships for Indonesian journalists to study and work in China, such as the China-ASEAN Press Center Program and the China-Indonesia Press Center Program.
  • Cooperating and collaborating with media outlets: China has cooperated and collaborated with Indonesian media outlets, through various agreements and partnerships, such as content-sharing, content-generating, and advertising. Some of the Indonesian media outlets that have signed cooperation agreements with Chinese media outlets are Metro TV, The Jakarta Post, and Antara News Agency.

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Implications

China’s media expansion in Indonesia has various implications and consequences, not only for the media industry and the public opinion in Indonesia, but also for the bilateral relations and the regional dynamics between Indonesia and China, and between China and other actors in the region and in the world. Some of the possible implications are:

Positive implications:

  • China’s media expansion in Indonesia could provide more information and perspectives for the Indonesian audience, who may have limited or biased knowledge and understanding of China and its policies and actions, especially on issues such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the South China Sea, and the Covid-19 pandemic. China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also provide more opportunities and benefits for the Indonesian media industry, who may gain access to more resources, networks, and markets in China and beyond.
  • China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also enhance the communication and the cooperation between Indonesia and China, who may share more common interests and values, and who may resolve more conflicts and disputes, through dialogue and diplomacy. China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also enhance the stability and the security in the region, where China may play a more constructive and responsible role, and where other actors may respect and accommodate China’s legitimate rights and interests.

Negative implications:

  • China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also pose a threat and a challenge for the Indonesian media industry and the public opinion, who may be influenced and manipulated by China’s propaganda and disinformation, and who may lose their independence and diversity in reporting and analyzing China and its policies and actions, especially on issues such as human rights, democracy, and sovereignty. China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also pose a threat and a challenge for the Indonesian government and the society, who may face more pressure and interference from China, and who may compromise their national interests and values, in exchange for China’s favors and support.
  • China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also create and deepen the tension and the competition between Indonesia and China, who may have more divergent and conflicting interests and values, and who may have more clashes and confrontations, over various issues and areas, such as the Natuna Islands, the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, and the Taiwan Strait. China’s media expansion in Indonesia could also create and deepen the tension and the competition between China and other actors in the region and in the world, who may perceive and counter China’s media expansion as part of its broader and bolder ambition and aggression, and who may form and strengthen their alliances and partnerships to balance and contain China.
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