The rising Chinese investments in the Indonesian economy are no secret anymore. There has been an exponential rise in these investments ever since Chinese President XI Jinping rolled out his ambitious trillion dollar BRI project. Trade with Indonesia has also significantly increased as the two countries have forged closer ties over the past few years. In 2017, the two countries engaged in bi-lateral trade worth 58.8 billion dollars, which was an 18% increase from a year ago. On the investment front, China has become the 3rd highest investor with $2.3 billion of investments spread across 1,562 projects. There are a total of 25,000 Chinese workers and 1000 Chinese companies present in Indonesia today.
While the growing Chinese investments and tighter economic ties between the two are well known, the expanding Chinese educational footprint that has followed these investments has been largely ignored. Along these investment ties, Indonesia and China have also created a strong educational partnership. In 2016, they finalized an agreement to recognize mutual higher education qualifications. In 2017, they inked another agreement to strengthen the educational cooperation which made up the third such partnership agreement since their BRI partnership.
Although the foundation stone of the educational partnership was laid at the turn of the millennia, it has really picked up pace as Chinese investments have grown post the BRI agreement in the past few years. More and more Indonesian nationals are drawn towards learning the Chinese language as it enhances their chances of employment in the Chinese firms both at home and in China.
There are a number of Chinese language institutes that have sprouted across the archipelago in recent years. There are also numerous Confucius Institutes established in the country now. Universitas Hasanuddin, which is one of the largest universities in Indonesia, was among the first to set up a Confucius institute. Universitas Al-Azhar Indonesia in Jakarta, Universitas Kristen Maranatha in Bandung, Universitas Muhammadiyah and Tanjungpura University are a few among the others that are located across Indonesia that have since then established Confucius institutes and Chinese learning centers. The Confucius institutes not only teach the Chinese language, but also encourage cultural exchange.
Furthermore, university to university U2U cooperation has also grown between the two countries. For example, Beijing University has partnered with it Indonesian counterpart Universitas Indonesia, while other Chinese universities have formed a U2U partnership with Universitas Negeri Yogyakarta. In 2015, Universitas Indonesia received a 500,000 Yuan education fund from Beijing.
As a result, the number of Indonesian students studying in Chinese universities has substantially increased over the last few years. The Chinese educational and cultural influence has followed its investments and economic footprint in the archipelago.