Debating China’s Influence in Indonesia and Australia: A Comparison

Dr Evi Fitriani2, Dr Dave McRae1

1Asia Institute, University Of Melbourne, , Australia, 2Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia, , Indonesia

Public debate has intensified in recent years in both Australia and Indonesia regarding China’s involvement in each country’s domestic affairs. Two differences stand out. In Australia, public debate on Chinese investment has shifted from an initial pre-occupation with the consequences for Australian workers and long-term national prosperity to instead focus on security concerns, a theme that is absent in Indonesia. There has been no equivalent, for example, of the various Chinese tenders and investments that have been banned, disallowed or have become controversial on national security grounds in Australia. A second, newer strand of Australian debate is also absent in Indonesia, namely the focus since 2017 on efforts by China to cultivate political influence within Australia. Such concerns have culminated in the passage of new foreign interference legislation in Australia in 2018. This paper investigates the drivers of these differences, despite broad commonalities in contextual factors between the two countries, with the goal of contributing to scholarship on the ways in which regional countries are responding to China’s rise.


Evi Fitriani is a senior lecturer in the International Relations Department, Faculty of Social and Political Sciences, Universitas Indonesia. She is also the Head of Miriam Budiardjo Resource Center of FISIP UI. She is the author of Southeast Asians and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM): State’s interests and institution’s longevity (2014).

Dave McRae is a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s Asia Institute. He is the author of A Few Poorly Organized Men: Interreligious Violence in Poso, Indonesia and co-author with Jemma Purdey and Antje MIssbach of Indonesia: State and Society in Transition . He co-hosts the Talking Indonesia podcast.




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

Conference Managers

Please contact the team at Conference Design with any questions regarding the conference.

Photo Credits: Visit Victoria

© 2019 Conference Design Pty Ltd