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Escalating Tensions in the South China Sea: Will Indonesia Fight Back?

In the fight over the territorial rights of the South China Sea, Indonesia has traditionally played the role of mediator between China and the rest of the countries in Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), specifically Vietnam and the Philippines. However, China has now stepped up its claims for the waters of Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. Consequently, Indonesia has now been forced to abandon its neutral position and flex its military prowess, performing large scale exercises around the Natuna Islands to show China they will not be passive when it comes to their territory. With both actors using increasingly bombastic language, the region has become more and more volatile. 

New America International Security Fellow Patrik Meyer has explored this dynamic and ever-changing dispute through a quantitative and qualitative examination of hundreds of Indonesian official news reports on the Nantuna Islands. He earned his Ph.D. in Politics and International Studies from the University of Cambridge. He also holds an M.P.A. in Development from Harvard Kennedy School, an M.S. in Structural Dynamics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a B.S. in Civil Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. Currently, he is a visiting professor at Univeristas Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta, where he lectures on international relations and conducts research involving interethnic relations and Indonesia-China relations, particularly in the South China Sea.

Join us for an engaging and informative discussion about the recents developments in this dispute and where the conflict will go from here. 

Follow the discussion online using #SCSIndonesia and following @NewAmericaISP.


Patrik Meyer
Fellow, New America, International Security Program


Bay Fang 
Executive Editor of Radio Free Asia
Fellow, New America, International Security Program