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Talk covers emerging status of Indonesia
Expert: Young democracy holds significance
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Between the Western and Eastern worlds, Indonesia plays a key role in the relationship of America and China.

The fourth-most populous country, Indonesia's economy is developing rapidly, as is its political power, said J.T. Kwon, assistant professor of political science at North Georgia College & State University.

Kwon gave a presentation on the nation as part of the NGCSU Great Decisions lecture series at the Cumming library last week.

"In recent years, Indonesia has been getting more attention from America," he said. "And Indonesia has been getting more positive perceptions of the U.S."

China's rise has been a primary reason for the U.S. to work on building a relationship with Indonesia, he said.

The geographical position and economic trading power of Indonesia has made it a key strategic element in the U.S. being able to "contain" China's growing power, Kwon said.

"The U.S. wants to use Indonesia as the instrument to check and balance against China," he said. "And Indonesia wants to have some security from the U.S. guaranteed against China."

Indonesia, made up of about 17,000 islands in southeast Asia, contains several resources within its maritime borders, including oil.

China, as the world's biggest consumer of oil, strives to create a better relationship with Indonesia for that purpose, Kwon said.

As a democratic nation, Indonesia is a natural ally for the U.S., he said. But the country held its first direct presidential election in 2004, so it "still has a long way to go" in terms of achieving a full transition to the political system.

Indonesia was colonized by the Netherlands until 1942, when Japan occupied it during World War II.

Following the fall of Japan in 1945, Indonesia declared independence, with an authoritarian president taking the leadership role until 1967, when a military coup overthrew him.

The next president kept the people happy with the rapid economic development, Kwon said, but fell out of power during the Asian financial crisis of 1997, sparking the transition to democracy.

About 60 people attended the Thursday night lecture. Many asked questions about China and North Korea, since Kwon's studies focus on those countries.

The eight-week lecture series continues at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at teh Cumming library with a discussion on Mexico.