Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs

Sage Publications, Inc.
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  • Balancing with Jokowi’s Characteristics: A Neoclassical Realism Approach to Indonesia’s Foreign and Security Policies in the South China Sea

    The objectives of this article are twofold. First, it seeks to posit Jokowi’s foreign and security policies in the broader historical context of Indonesian foreign and security policymaking. Throughout history, Indonesia’s responses to its external environment, as manifested in its foreign and security policies, have been significantly influenced by a range of domestic factors including leaders’ personality and his/her attitude to international politics. Building upon the historical observation, this article seeks to understand Jokowi’s foreign and security policies in the South China Sea using a neoclassical realism framework. It argues that there has been a shift in Indonesia’s approach to the South China Sea problem, characterised by a more active and pragmatic diplomacy and a more assertive approach to territorial integrity. Both components, however, are not deterministic products of external threats as predicted by neorealist theories. Instead, they are influenced by Jokowi’s personality, attitude towards foreign and security policy and preoccupation of his administration with the domestic agenda.

  • Joko Widodo’s Fleeting Maritime Ambitions: An Actor-Specific Analysis of Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum

    This study seeks to understand why President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo decided to implement the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) the way he did. It examines his foreign policy decisions through the actor-specific approach in foreign policy, specifically focusing on the role of the highest executive leader in making foreign policy decisions. This study seeks to understand why the GMF declined in its importance through the lens of actor-specific theory. It examines the relation between Jokowi’s psycho-milieu and his choices of foreign policy within the context of implementing the GMF vision by drawing from insights at the individual level, namely by understanding Jokowi’s political ‘self’. This study makes two observations. First, Jokowi’s inexperience in foreign policy led to a ‘hands-off’ approach in the issue areas observed. Second, his overt technocratic outlook contributed to ad-hoc decisions, which eventually impeded the development of key GMF policies. This study examines three issue areas related to the GMF: maritime policymaking, infrastructure development and diplomacy. Across these three areas, Jokowi has shown a tendency to avoid involvement in areas where he lacks expertise, which results in a haphazard implementation of the GMF.

  • Indonesia’s Foreign and Maritime Policies Under Joko Widodo: Domestic and External Determinants
  • Indonesia’s China and US Approach: Crafting Policies Out of Standard Operating Procedures

    This article examines Indonesia’s perceptions, strategies and policies towards the USA and China under the presidencies of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (2004–2014) and Joko Widodo’s first term and early second term (2014–2020). It argues that on a strategic level, Indonesia’s behaviours are in line with structural realist principles, where it adopts a prudent approach of maintaining its strategic autonomy. However, deviations from structural realism are identified in the operationalisation of this strategy into specific foreign and security policies. This article explains such deviations by employing Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow’s models of decision-making, and argues that such suboptimal policies are driven by two domestic political factors, namely, organisational behaviour and governmental politics. Specifically, the article highlights two key tendencies: (a) that policy makers tend to stick to some a priori guidelines within their organisations, despite changes in external pressures; and (b) that policies tend to be by-products of competition between government organisations. In Indonesia–China relations, these tendencies are most apparent in Indonesia’s approach in the South China Sea, where policies and narratives articulated by the government have been largely stagnant, despite increased intensity of China’s activities in Indonesia’s Exclusive Economic Zone. With regard to the USA, these factors manifest in the lack of tangible progress in defence and security cooperation between the two countries, due to a static interpretation of Indonesia’s Free and Active foreign policy maxim.

  • Book review: Chung Min Lee. 2019. The Hermit King: The Dangerous Game of Kim Jong Un

    Chung Min Lee. 2019. The Hermit King: The Dangerous Game of Kim Jong Un. United States: All Points Books, St. Martin’s Publishing Group. 320 pp. ISBN 9781250202833.

  • Book review: South Asia Conundrum: The Great Power Gambit

    B. M. Jain. 2019. South Asia Conundrum: The Great Power Gambit. Lanham, USA: Lexington Books. 171 pp. ISBN 978-1-4985-7175-3.

  • Continuity in Indonesia’s Strategy in the South China Sea Under Joko Widodo

    This study seeks to address two interrelated questions: Does Indonesia underbalance against China? Why does President Joko Widodo stick with the strategy of to this day? The study lays out three main arguments. First, there are two types of strategies: the appropriate and inappropriate one (under-balancing). Indonesia, under the first and beginning of the second term of Jokowi presidency, adopts the prudent strategy. Thus, it does not underbalance against the Chinese military threats in the South China Sea. Such prudent strategy consists of several dimensions: facilitating the United States’ security presence in Asia, engaging major powers such as China in bilateral and multilateral economic and political–military ties to socialise China into a peace-loving country. Second, Indonesia’s non-balancing action, which is the second-best strategy after a more traditional direct internal and external military balancing, is considered a prudent choice, for three main reasons: (a) it is predicated on the assessment that China is perceived as a risk-averse limited-aims revisionist power; (b) Indonesia has very limited capacity to directly balance China and (c) the United States is perceived to be willing and able to balance China. Lastly, the continuity of this strategy, which started during the post-Cold War era, is partly related to the positive feedback effects or self-reinforcing process of existing formal institutions.

  • Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum: From Hedging to Underbalancing

    This article examines why Indonesia’s vision of the Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF) was not properly developed in accordance to its strategic response to the increased rivalry between China and the USA in the Asia-Pacific region. Although the GMF initially focussed on achieving domestic agendas, Indonesia’s implicit intention is to utilise the GMF as a hedge in order to strengthen economic cooperation with China while keeping the USA engaged in the region’s security architecture. My article seeks to go beyond the existing literature’s employment of primarily structural realist analysis to understand Indonesia’s strategic behaviour by applying a neoclassical realist approach to Indonesia’s case, which better demonstrates current conditions exhibiting how conflicting elite interests generate political discord which in turn hinders the state’s ability to extract and mobilise domestic resources, ultimately hampering Indonesia’s ability to achieve its GMF goals. Although certain threats and opportunities within the international system have manifested themselves to actively encourage the proper implementation of GMF, this strategy remains underdeveloped since the time of its launch. Neoclassical realism provides a better explanation that enhances our understanding of how Indonesia assesses and responds to its strategic environment.

  • Explaining Indonesia’s Under-balancing: The Case of the Modernisation of the Air Force and the Navy

    The current maritime challenges that Indonesia faced had not led to the development of the navy and air force. While theories of neoclassical realism highlighted the importance of domestic factors when determining responses at the strategic level, inefficiencies within the state bureaucracy had often been the bane of prudent policies. Our article attempts to engage with the neorealist concept of under-balancing to look at the reasons why there is stagnation in Indonesia’s naval and air force development. The proponents of under-balancing blamed inefficient bureaucracy as the cause of the issue. Our study on Indonesia’s naval and air force development indicated that inefficient bureaucracy was not the only driver of under-balancing. Looking at the agenda of naval and air force modernisation, this research argues the lack of commitment from the government, limited economic sources and the different modernisation priorities at the military unit level that had greatly contributed to the mismatch between systemic pressure and the response, in this case through naval and air force development, against it.

  • Book review: Victor Teo. 2019. Japan’s Arduous Rejuvenation as a Global Power: Democratic Resilience and the US–China Challenge

    Victor Teo. 2019. Japan’s Arduous Rejuvenation as a Global Power: Democratic Resilience and the US–China Challenge. Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan. 242 pp. ISBN 978-981-13-6189-0.

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