Indonesia Crisis As An Example

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Indonesia Crisis As An Example


Indonesia's Crisis: The Lesson for China
introductionIndonesia, as we have long predicted, is coming apart. This process has a
great deal of relevance to China, whose army, like Indonesia's, was accustomed to making
lots of money and now resents the fact that the good times are over. In both countries,
making money became the basis for military loyalty to the regime, which in turn needed the
army as guarantor. But in China, as in Indonesia, the military is no longer making money,
and China has banned its officers from business. Now Beijing is creating international
tension to soak up the military's energy and resentment. But in the end, the guarantor of
the regime can bring its death, leaving warlords poised to take power.

ANALYSIS
We have long argued that the Asian economic meltdown, as its ultimate legacy, would
politically reconfigure Asia. We meant this in both the international and domestic sense:
Nations would behave differently after the meltdown than they did during the past
generation of extraordinary prosperity. The reconfiguration of Sino-American relations is
an obvious manifestation of this. But it is the domestic political changes that are the
most profound and will have the most impact on international relations. It should be
obvious that an economic transformation of the magnitude we have seen cannot help but have
equally dramatic political consequences.

Asia is obviously a diverse region. It goes without saying that the economic meltdown will
affect Japan's politics dramatically differently than Malaysia's. However, events during
the last week have drawn our attention to one area of commonality: the effect of the
economic crisis on the military in China and in Indonesia.

These two countries are not usually lumped together; they differ in profound ways. But
they share this: they have both used their military forces for three missions –
protection against foreign enemies, enforcement of internal security and development of
the economy. During the previous generation, the latter role became more and more
important for both the Chinese and Indonesian militaries.

But Asia's recent economic crisis, the states and circumstance have forced both militaries
to de-emphasize their economic roles. Not only are the militaries not happy about this,
but their unhappiness could destabilize their respective regimes. Quite apart from the
truly disturbing prospect of an Asia dealing simultaneously with both Chinese and
Indonesian instability, there are important lessons to be learned from the way in which
each country used the military and the consequences of that use.

The fundamental roles of both the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) and the
Indonesian armed forces (TNI) were originally the same, to serve as the foundation of a
regime governing a restive, multi-ethnic populace engaged in building a cohesive
nation-state. Although circumstances were different in China and Indonesia, there was
great commonality of purpose.

On the one hand, the armies in both countries were designed to guarantee internal security
so that the state could construct its control mechanisms in safety. On the other hand, the
army -- as one of the few genuinely national institutions -- was an instrument of
nation-building. By recruiting members throughout society, these armies served as a means
for upward mobility and as a tool for integrating diverse elements into a cohesive whole.
As was the case in many new societies, the military served not only as a means for
stability, but also as a tool of modernity.

The Chinese and Indonesian armies played similar roles in controlling the social
instability created by their charismatic leaders. Beginning with the October, 1965,
backlash against the communists, the Indonesian military steadily asserted itself, and
under the leadership of then-Gen. Suharto, the legacy of Indonesia's founder Sukarno
steadily diminished. The PLA intervened to crush the Mao-inspired Great Proletarian
Cultural Revolution. The PLA's intervention not only stabilized a China that was
oscillating out of control and moving toward chaos, but it created the framework that led
to the victory of Deng Xiaoping over Maoist forces and set the stage for the
implementation of Deng's economic reforms.

Both China and Indonesia moved cautiously toward engagement with the outside world's
economic system. Both Deng and Suharto held the reins tightly on the process of
development. But as economic development began to accelerate and involvement with
international finance developed, both Deng and Suharto had to involve their militaries,
not only to control the process but also to facilitate it.

In developing countries, the military is frequently the most modern institution in
society. Preparing for war requires two things. The first is some degree of familiarity
with technology and the principle of technological development. In societies in which the
understanding of better and worse technology is fairly abstract, the military -- which
lives and dies by better and worse technology -- is frequently the most capable of
evaluating and adapting it. Second, as the largest integrated organization in the country,
the army has to some degree mastered the management and coordination of large numbers of
personnel in dispersed locations, cooperating to achieve the same end.

Thus, the Indonesian and Chinese armies had a more intimate understanding of technology
and a more efficient means of organizing production than other institutions. In a China,
where the Cultural Revolution had torn out the heart of the nation's managerial class, and
an Indonesia in which the managerial class had either been Dutch or had emigrated, turning
to the military to facilitate economic development was a natural choice. Moreover, in two
xenophobic countries where economic development necessarily meant dealing with suspect
foreigners, a commitment to national security was another reason to rely on the military.

There was another issue: Both the Chinese and Indonesian regimes depended on the loyalty
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