Only One in Three Indonesians Favor China Investments, Poll Says

by BLOOMBERG

ONLY one in three Indonesians favor Chinese investors buying a controlling stake in major local companies, a survey found, showing the difficulty Beijing faces to improve its image across Southeast Asia.

The poll by Australia-based Lowy Institute asked respondents about a range of topics, including whether they would favor companies, banks or investment funds from eight particular countries purchasing a majority share in major Indonesian firms. It found Saudi Arabia the most popular with 57%, with the U.S. at 42% and China at the bottom with 30%.

While trust in both of the world’s biggest economies fell among Indonesians, the survey found more negativity aimed toward China. More respondents saw the U.S. as more important for Indonesia’s economy than China, and a majority said that Southeast Asia’s most-populous country should join with other nations to limit China’s influence.

“China ranks less favorably than the United States across a range of indicators, from military and economic leadership, and influence and security concerns, to ‘soft power’ benchmarks such as education and work destinations,” Lowy said in a summary of its “Indonesia Poll 2021.”

The survey comes as Indonesia turns to the Middle East and China to finance the construction of a $34 billion new capital in Borneo after SoftBank Group Corp. founder Masayoshi Son pulled out of the project. Minister for Investment and Maritime Affairs Luhut Panjaitan recently said overseas financers had expressed interest, including from Saudi Arabia and one from Abu Dhabi in partnership with Chinese funds.

“Indonesians appear to hold Islamic countries in particularly high regard,” the report said, adding that it surveyed 3,000 Indonesians. Saudi Arabia topped a “feelings thermometer” that measures perceptions about countries and territories.

Picking Favorites | Indonesians asked if they support a country’s investors buying controlling stake in major local firms

After President Joko Widodo, the two next leaders that inspire the most confidence among those surveyed were Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at 57%, and United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at 52%. U.S. President Joe Biden at 44% outranked both Chinese leader Xi Jinping and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, both of whom had the confidence of about a third of Indonesians.

“Amid talk of an Islamic turn in Indonesian foreign policy, and rising religious conservatism at home, more Indonesians express confidence in the leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates than in any other foreign leaders,” the survey said.

The survey found Indonesians have grown distrustful of major powers over the past decade. While 56% of respondents trusted the U.S., that number was down 16 percentage points compared with a decade ago. Trust in China fell even further, dropping to 42% in that period.