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To Win Hearts and Minds

A Gastrodiplomacy Campaign to Strengthening Indonesia-China Bilateral Relationship

(Christ Soselisa, Pelita Harapan University)

"..Our two countries will strengthen people-to-people engagement. China is committed to

extensive exchanges and cooperation with Indonesia on education, culture, tourism, media and
sports to entrench the ideas of peace, friendship and cooperation among our peoples. The two
sides have agreed to deepen tourism cooperation. We will open more direct flights and work
toward the goal of three million mutual visits annually..." (Li Keqiang).1

Indonesia and China have been developed their relationship for almost 70 years and
developed further through cooperation between Indonesia’s Global Maritime Fulcrum and
Chinese’s 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Program. Both ideas are about connectivity, safety
and diplomacy, instead about power supremacy.2 China is the third largest foreign investor in
Indonesia with investment amounting to US$3.4 billion in 2017. The two countries have strong
economic ties, with China being Indonesia largest trading partner. Two-way trades in 2017 hit
US$63.4 billion. That cooperation was beneficial to both sides.

Whilst government-to-government diplomacy between Indonesia and China run

continuously, there are also increasingly people-to-people (citizen diplomacy) approaches. This
mode of diplomacy is increasingly enabled by widespread easy access to communications
technologies and platforms, and growing contact between people across national divides, both
virtually via digital social fora and networks and physically through tourism.3 Basically, the goal
of three million tourists annually is feasible. More than two million Chinese tourists have visited
Indonesia in 2017.

Keynote Speech by H.E Li Keqiang Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China at the China-
Indonesia Business Summit, May 8th, 2018. Accessed on
January 15th, 2019
Rizal Sukma, (2014) Asian Headline. Accessed on February 1st , 2019Rizal Sukma is a former Presidential Adviser
for Foreign Policy, former Director of CSIS, Ambassador of the Republic of Indonesia to the United Kingdom and
Snow, N. (2009). Rethinking Public Diplomacy. In N. Snow & P Taylor (Eds), Routledge handbook of public
diplomacy (pp. 3-11). Oxon: Routledge as cited from Suntikul, Wantanee (2017): Gastrodiplomacy in Tourism ,
Current Issues in Tourism, DOI: 10.1080/1383500.201.1363723. Accessed on January 2nd , 2019
Why Tourism and Gastrodiplomacy campaign?

Over the last decades, tourism has experienced sustained growth and increasing
diversification in order to become one of the fastest growing industries and economic sectors in
the world. Alternative tourism activities as gastronomy, culture, sport, and religious pilgrimages
are gaining momentum as opposed to mass tourism activities that were mostly about sea, beach,
and sun.4

Gastronomy is the art and science of cooking and eating good food.5 Food is an ideal tool
for public diplomacy, because of its intrinsic potential to engage “hearts and minds”.6
Gastrodiplomacy is a form of public diplomacy that combines cultural diplomacy, culinary
diplomacy and nation branding to make foreign culture tangible to the taste and touch7.

Lessons from the pioneer

The first gastrodiplomacy campaign is used by Thailand as their part of public diplomacy
in 2002 “Global Thai” program, which focuses on expanding the number of Thai restaurant
around the world and to influence people worldwide to eat Thai cuisine. Today, there are over
15,000 Thai restaurants overseas. This program followed by the launching of e-book “Thailand,
Kitchen of the world’ in 2003, with the main strategies to include expanding agriculture and food
business, adding value to agricultural produce with high technology production process,
supporting cooperation at regional and international level and supporting Thailand investment
abroad especially in building a network of Thai restaurant and food market overseas.8 Thai
government also focuses attention to prioritize standardization and quality through ‘Thai Select”

Comert, Menekse and Ozkaya, Fugen Durlu. (2014). The Importance of Turkish Cuisine in Gastronomy Tourism,
Journal of Tourism and Gastronomy Studies. Accessed on February 15th, 2019
Simple definition from Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English
Sam Chappel-Sokol, (2013) Culinary Diplomacy: Breaking Bread to Win Hearts and Minds, The Hague Journal of
Diplomacy 8 p.161-183, Accessed on January 15th , 2019
Rockower, P. (2012) Recipes for Gastrodiplomacy. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 8(3), 35-246 as cited
from Tettner, Samuel and Kalyoncu, Begum. (2016) Gastrodiplomacy 2.0 : Culinary Tourism Beyond Nationalism,
Ozyegin University Department of Gastronomy and Culinary Art. Accessed on February 1st , 2019
Varanyanond, Warunee (2013). Fostering Food Culture with Innovation: OTOP and Thai Kitchen To The World,
Institute of Food Research and Product Development, Kasetsart University, Bangkok, Thailand. P. 179-190.
Accessed on February 15th, 2019
label and certificate for a qualified restaurant to control the standard. Thai restaurant abroad
serves as tourist information centers.9

As the result, from the total 5.3 million tourist visiting Thailand in 1990 increase to 35.4
million tourists-included 9.8 million from China in 2017.

Why it is important for Indonesia to conduct a Gastrodiplomacy campaign to China?

China and Indonesia are important emerging power in the world and become the key
engine of global economy.10 Increasing people-to-people diplomacy trough gastronomic contacts
shall give insight, broaden positive perception, decrease prejudice, eliminated fears and
misinterpretation, generate tolerance and acceptance. In long term create peace environment,
strengthen our relationship and bring prosper to countries, the region and the whole world.

China is the most populous country in the world with more than 1.4 billion people,
enormous market, rising economy, politic and technology power. The number of Chinese current
passport holders of 120 million is predicted grow to 240 million by 2020.11 In fact, countries in
the world are in a race to attract Chinese tourist.

When these two hundreds millions of Chinese passport holders travel abroad to
destination on their choice, We can create an opportunity to visit the rest of 1.2 billion people
through gastrodiplomacy campaign. We do not only serve Indonesian cuisine and or involved
them food festival during their visit to Indonesia, but we actively come to their communities, to
their ‘homes’ to introduce our history, culture and tradition through our authentic gastronomic
packages. Gastrodiplomacy enables members of the public to encounter foreign cultures through
food, even without travelling abroad.12

Immawati, NA (2017). The Thailand’s Gastrodiplomacy: Its Strategy to Develop National Branding (2002-2025),
repository Accessed on January 15th, 2019
Clinton, Hilary. (2011). America’s Pacific Century. Foreign Policy 189-Pro Quest. p 56-63 Accessed on February
17th, 2019
tourism-boom. Accessed on February 17th , 2019
Suntikul, Wantanee (2017): Gastrodiplomacy in Tourism , Current Issues in Tourism, DOI:
10.1080/1383500.201.1363723 Accessed on January 2nd , 2019
I was very impressed at the last day of BUBW 201513 conference in Maryland Baltimore,
when hundreds participants from more than forty countries are having a lunch of Indonesian
food, coordinated by a woman organization of Indonesian Embassy in Washington DC. It was
part of Indonesian gastrodiplomacy in the USA. Thus, gastrodiplomacy is not new for
Indonesian, but instead of made it as full movement and synergic action, it was sporadic and
separated actions in countries based on the creativity of each embassy for example in Australia
and United Kingdom.

Indonesia has all the supporting resources, natural, cultural and human resources,
geographic position, tourism destination, culinary diversity, which are even better than Thailand
and also government support, and R&D facilities.14 Indonesia needs a compact, innovative and
integrated, gastrodiplomacy campaign focusing on China. Indonesian should be confident with
the richness of our culinary culture and spices varieties. Indonesian food is the best food in the
world.15 From appetizer, main course to dessert, there are abundant of culinary choice from all
regions, for example Asinan Bogor, Woku Manado, Rendang Padang, Gudeg Yogyakarta and
Bika-Ambon Medan. We also have a variety of best beverages like coffee to offer, for example
Aceh-Gayo, Balinese or Toraja coffee.

When search online for Indonesian restaurant in Shanghai, from eleven restaurants that
recommended as Indonesia restaurant I found only two are real Indonesian restaurants and the
other nine are Malaysian restaurants that maybe serve “Indonesian food”. Compare that to 10
best, five stars Thai Restaurant that easily recommended by Chinese travel advisors.

The number of Indonesia food channel in China should be increase. Beside traditional
media as TV and radio, use the advantage of China digital network to reach their 790 million
internet users. Government as a campaign leader shall committed to coordinate, motivate and
give clear direction to all state and non-state actors, NGO’s, trade chambers, business

BUBW stands for Better Understanding for Better World is a Leadership, Multicultural and Interfaith Program;
participate with high school student around the world.
Sukenti, Kurniasih. (2014) Gastronomy Tourism in Several Neighbor Countries of Indonesia : A Brief Review,
Journal of Indonesia Tourism and Development Studies Vol.2, No.2, April. P. 55-63 cited from Rasyidah, Resa.
(2015) Strategi Promosi Gastro-Tourism Indonesia Untuk Peningkatan Kunjungan Wisata Asing, Belajar dari
Malaysia, PAHMI 9th International Conference, Yogyakarta. Accessed on February 11th , 2019
Based on CNN World 50’s Best Food.>travel>article . Accessed on February 15th, 2019
association, agriculture, food and tourism industries, and all respective parties include Indonesian
Small Medium Enterprise, to participate in one synergic action to succeed this campaign.

How about China campaign on gastrodiplomacy to Indonesia?

Why not? The aiming maybe not based on economic reason, but to achieve what China
has focused on its peaceful rise used the way to building Chinese soft power and used public
diplomacy to promote its national image.16 There was a successful Chinese gastrodiplomacy
campaign to Latin America in 2010.

Indonesia, the world ‘s third largest democracy country is a big market too, the fourth
most populous, Indonesia has a voice as a primus inter pares in ASEAN community, member of
G20 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum and the biggest Muslim country in the world.

Gastrodiplomacy campaign of Chinese Halal Cuisine (Qingzhen Cai) in Indonesia is a

positive public diplomacy to show the world that actually halal food is well regulated, highly
accepted and popular in China. It is beyond expectation and something to appreciate. It shall
increase China’s soft power by winning Indonesian hearts and also the hearts of the people from
others Muslim nations.


Gastrodiplomacy is a tool to boost tourism and contribute to countries economic wealth

and may increase country of soft power and improve our nation image.

Indonesian gastrodiplomacy campaign to China is very serious business, we have to be

fully committed and determine to achieve its goals. Gastrodiplomacy is a bridge to the gap
between Chinese and Indonesian. Citizens from both countries have opportunity to meet and
interact directly in friendly-liquid atmosphere and pleasant ambience, find common ground,

Yi Wei Wang. (2008). Public Diplomacy and the Rise of Chinese Soft Power. Annals, AAPSS, 616 March 2008.
257-272. Accessed on February 1st , 2019
accept our diversity and strengthening relationship in peace environment as our goals. This is
about the beauty of winning hearts and minds.