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

AuthorI Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia
DOI10.1177/23477970211039306
Date01 December 2021
Publication Date01 December 2021
SubjectResearch Articles
Research Article
Joko Widodo’s Fleeting
Maritime Ambitions:
An Actor-Specific
Analysis of Indonesia’s
Global Maritime
Fulcrum
I Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia1
Abstract
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.
Keywords
Indonesia, Global Maritime Fulcrum, actor-specific theory, foreign policy
Journal of Asian Security
and International Affairs
8(3) 304–323, 2021
© The Author(s) 2021
Reprints and permissions:
in.sagepub.com/journals-permissions-india
DOI: 10.1177/23477970211039306
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1 International Relations Study Programme, President University, Bekasi, West Java, Indonesia.
Corresponding author:
I Gusti Bagus Dharma Agastia, International Relations Study Programme, President University,
Kampus President University, Jalan Ki Hajar Dewantara, Jababeka, Cikarang, Bekasi 17550, West
Java, Indonesia.
E-mail: agastia@president.ac.id
Agastia 305
Introduction
The ‘Global Maritime Fulcrum (GMF)’ was first espoused in Joko ‘Jokowi’
Widodo’s presidential campaign in 2014. The vision was further affirmed after
his electoral victory when Jokowi called for the country to ‘work together to
develop Indonesia into a global maritime axis, a global civilization hub’ (Tempo,
2014). In 2015, Jokowi announced the five pillars of the GMF which included
maritime diplomacy, maritime culture, maritime defence, maritime economy and
maritime identity. A more comprehensive iteration of the policy was conceived in
2017 when the Coordinating Ministry for Maritime Affairs (CMMA) published a
policy document titled ‘Indonesian Ocean Policy’ (also referred to as Presidential
Decree no. 16/2017). Domestically, Jokowi has embarked on a developmental
fervour reminiscent of Suharto’s developmentalist agenda in the 1970s. Several
high-profile infrastructure projects, such as the Sea Toll Road and the Jakarta–
Bandung high-speed railway, have been implemented with alacrity and praised
for lowering logistics costs and increasing inter-island connectivity. At the
international level, Jokowi has been actively promoting Indonesian economic
interests and pitching infrastructure projects at numerous high-level meeting. Yet
the promotion of diplomatic structures related to Indonesia’s position vis-à-vis
regional and global partners was largely absent in his GMF vision, despite it being
touted as a geopolitical reassertion of Indonesia’s regional and global role. By the
end of his first term, many of the promises in the GMF, such as the revitalisation
of Indonesian maritime identity, a reorientation to the seas and a more maritime-
oriented foreign policy, remained lofty aspirations. As Jokowi enters his second
term in office, he displayed minimal interest in continuing the GMF. Instead, he
doubled down on land-based infrastructure development and pursuing foreign
investment (ANTARA, 2019).
This study seeks to understand why the GMF declined in its importance
through the lens of actor-specific theory. It examines Jokowi’s political ‘self’,
which is the main intervening variable in his foreign policy decisions. 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. To demonstrate this argument, this study first elaborates the
actor-specific approach used as the framework for analysis. Second, it depicts
Jokowi’s ‘political self’ by describing Jokowi’s upbringing and early political
career as mayor of Solo and governor of Jakarta, which constitute a formative
period for his political style. Third, this study reviews selected policies related to
the GMF and examines how the political ‘self’ intervenes in the implementation
of GMF-related policies.
Actor-Specific Theory: A Review
States are expected to act as rational actors, continuously adjusting their conduct
in response to systemic changes in the distribution of power, based on rational

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