Lessons from China’s Fu Qiang

President SBY recently made a state visit to China on 26 October 2010.  He was featured as a keynote speaker in a business forum which was intended to bolster economic cooperation between Indonesia and China.  By visiting Beijing there is much more to be obtained from our former New Emerging Forces ally.

We vividly remember a time when our two countries stood together to form the Jakarta – Peking Axis, dubbed a “New Emerging Forces” (NEFO).  Nowadays, facts on the ground have revealed that we are far behind our former NEFO comrade.  Both countries experienced massive changes within each one and a rocky relationship; from the Great Leap Forward to Reformasi in Indonesia.

Notable is how the Chinese maneuver their country and cling to the Sino Fu Qiang (wealth and power) principle to gain their dignity, international respect and territorial integrity.  China has built a so-called “Beijing Consensus,” a combination of socialist-state capitalism cum semi-democracy which makes them one of the world’s largest economies and enjoys its rising influence on the global platform.

The source of the problem is clear: How both bodies manage their country and stick to their ideology and goals toward the people.  The Chinese, despite allegations that the Beijing Consensus is often declared reclusive and authoritarian, the government steadfastly adheres to their ancestral ideology: the Fu Qiang principle that encapsulates their “informal social contract.”  The Chinese government guarantees its people opportunities to enjoy a high standard of living there.  As a result, China’s current achievements in terms of economics, politics and international influence are extraordinary by any standard.

In the meantime, we Indonesians have our own principles to run our country.  Determined to be the world’s third-largest democracy, we have Pancasila (five pillars of democracy) and 1945’s Basic Constitution as the founding principle of our democracy.  We indeed have such a “contract” to deliver developmental growth and equal opportunities to our constituents.  We even empower our people to have equal opportunities regardless of their financial or political standing.

However, facts on the ground imply quite the opposite.  Behind the mask of democracy, the Ahmadiyah people have become stateless citizens in Indonesia and hardline groups live freely to take the law into their own hands.  Under the guise of supremacy of law, we still see law only applied to the poor and small but they are seemingly navigable for powerful conglomerates, corruptors and massive human rights violators.

Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to meet Sha Pengcheng – a CPC member and Chairman of the Xian Chinese Moslem Chamber Of Commerce in China – and several prominent Chinese Moslem clerics there.  I questioned them concerning the Chinese government’s treatment of them as a minority sect.  Surprisingly, despite allegation that the administration is authoritarian, their adherents feel protected because Beijing puts national interests at heart by firmly implementing their “informal social contract” so as to protect the citizens.  For example, China provides RMB 40b for the first stages of Moslem development in China.

Beijing provides equal opportunity to all citizens so they may enjoy a decent life in China regardless of their individual status.  That is the reason why I believe the effectiveness of a social contract – quoting Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek International Editor- is behind the results of the absence of massive violence in China since Tian An Men tragedy.

Another example of how China upholds its Fu Qiang through their equal sense of justice can be seen from its “predatory” towards citizens regardless of their political standing or power.  For example, China’s retail tycoon, Huang Guangyu (once it wealthiest person and today still near the top) was sentenced to 14 years in prison for insider trading.


Have we observed such things within our own borders?  A state that often boasts about its democracy and supremacy of law?  We rolled out the red carpet for BLBI’s disgraced banker. What is saddening is that there are many Indonesian tycoons that are untouchable by enforcement officials in spite of their violations of law being open and blatant.

Yes, we have suffered enough to achieve our democracy and I refuse to say this is not a good thing, but without firmly adhering to our fundamental principles and put the country’s best interests first and foremost, we are merely “trapped” to an “illusion of democracy” often labeled a procedural democracy rather than a substantial one. Most of the recruitment and promotion of the leadership of party members and state leaders is not based on meritocratic aspect. Just see how our lawmakers –the representative of the people- go for overseas comparative study only to delve into the Greek ancient Parliament’s smoking regulations or the political parties under the name of democracy, in real fact turn to be the  “family political empire” parties.


We are aware that a high cost has already been paid to our democracy.  We have seen enough of our nation’s drama play out behind a mask of democracy: regional election turmoil, oppression towards minority sects, neglecting to deliver on developmental growth to our citizens, and failure to uphold the principle of the supremacy of law.

Please, Mr. President. Do not let our state “trapped” under the guise of democracy.  We know you are fully aware of this situation.  Put our own Fu Qiang at the forefront and uphold our ancestral ideology: 1945’s Basic Constitution and Pancasila.  Our democracy will be such a grand waste if you can not guarantee citizens’ fundamental rights and needs.

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