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Indonesians' trust in Australia falls as China seen as main security threat, Lowy report finds

ABC News - April 5, 2022

Stephen Dziedzic – A major new poll has found Indonesians are increasingly wary of Australia, while China is now seen as their country's main security threat.

The Lowy Institute's survey of about 3,000 Indonesians was the think tank's first major poll in the country for more than a decade.

Only 55 per cent of those polled expressed trust in Australia – a sharp drop of 20 points since the last survey in 2011.

But that growing scepticism is not limited to Australia.

There was also a significant drop in trust towards several regional and global powers including the United States, China, Japan and India.

Fifty-six per cent of those polled said they trusted the United States, a 16-point fall since 2011.

A large number of Indonesians were warm towards Japan, with 65 per cent expressing trust – although that was also a 15-point drop from the last survey.

Just 42 per cent said they trusted China, an 18-point fall since 2011.

China also overtook Malaysia as the country which Indonesians most identified as a potential aggressor, with about half of those surveyed saying China would pose a security threat over the next decade.

There were also very low levels of trust in the Chinese President, with only 34 per cent of Indonesians expressing confidence in Xi Jinping, putting him on par with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Scott Morrison also rated poorly, with just 38 per cent of Indonesians expressing confidence in the Australian Prime Minister, although most other regional leaders only drew slightly more favourable responses.

Indonesians wary of being drawn into regional conflict

Indonesia analyst Ben Bland from the Lowy Institute said while Indonesians' main security preoccupations were internal – including food security, the COVID-19 pandemic and separatist movements – the survey results might point to growing anxiety about Indonesia being drawn into a regional conflict between major powers.

"There is a sense they are less trustful of big powers and perhaps they see that this big power conflict does have the potential to undermine some of the domestic stability that Indonesians seek," he said.

Mr Bland said he did not believe the federal government should be too concerned about Indonesians' declining trust in Australia, saying the broader growth in suspicion and wariness might have been influenced by uncertainty generated by the global pandemic.

But he said the poll results highlighted that the Indonesian public – like its political leaders – remained wary of being drawn into a broader regional bloc aimed at balancing Chinese power and constraining its aggressive behaviour.

"The bigger concern for me is that the Australian government has really leaned heavily into the US view of balancing against China and seeing the whole region as contested and dividing into camps," he said.

"There is often a feeling in Australia that Indonesia and other South-East Asian nations will ultimately line up against China.

"I think what this data shows is that Indonesians will resist any attempt to force them into a camp.

"And this shows their public opinion is in line with their public policy and their deeply held non-aligned views."

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2022-04-05/indonesia-trust-in-australia-falls-china-security-threat-lowy/10096717