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An Essay for Write to China 2019

A Letter to China:
The Planning Process: Building Bridges that Connect People
by William Chang

The People: The Powerhouse of the Country, and The Key to Cooperate
When Premier Lie Keqiang said that China wanted to strengthen ties with Indonesia last
year, he really meant what he said. Only months after, the Chinese government told Chinese
companies to prioritize Indonesian employees over other foreign workers, while also adding
investments in Indonesia. But, are those efforts enough to strengthen these two large countries?
With a whopping number of 1.38 billion and 260 million populations respectively, China
and Indonesia are two countries built on lots of people. So, if we’re to strengthen the tie between
these two, the people’s trust and support is supposed to be the most important thing. That’s why
we need people to people diplomacy that can win the people’s hearts from both sides of the
bilateral relationship. One way to do that is no other than directly contributing to the people’s
welfare and getting to know their lives more—and there is one way we can do it.

Urban and Regional Planning Cooperation

It is hard to find a field where we can directly get involved in society—that is, until we
get to know what’s called urban and regional planning. It is a process in which planners make
development plans for our built environment. A planner will first collect data and analyze
various aspects of society: social, economy, politics, culture, and lots more. But, the most
important thing is that every planner must experience firsthand the conditions of the society his
team is taking care of. Planners will have to talk with the locals, negotiate, and discuss the best
solution for the problems in that area. Through this, planners have the chance to gain trust and
build emotional connection with the society where they plan.
An urban and regional planners exchange program between Indonesia and China will
give the chance for planners from China to learn and see for themselves the condition of the
society and environment in several areas in Indonesia—and vice versa. Through these
interactions, we can slowly improve mutual understanding between the two countries in the
future. This program won’t be like any ordinary vacations or expedition programs because the
planners will work in teams of Chinese and Indonesian planners, contributing to areas in either
Indonesia or China at a time. The planners will also become delegates of their country, trying to
An Essay for Write to China 2019

win the hearts of the other nation’s people through social interactions and hard work. If orators
can only give speeches to a small group of elites that don’t always represent the people
wholeheartedly, the planners will get the chance to directly interact with the people themselves.
As the urban planners get closer with the society in their study area, they can share
stories, cultures, or even traditional values of their country. Chinese urban planners can teach
Mandarin to the locals, as the language will be an important skill to have in the future. On the
other hand, the locals can share culinary recipes, folktales, and lots of other things. Hopefully,
these interactions will slowly help erase the cultural prejudice held by some of the Indonesian
locals. In order to build a strong relationship, there must first be tolerance and respect.
An urban planning cooperation is also a great prospect because we are facing similar
problem regarding population distribution. Even though World Bank stated that Indonesia and
China each has only about 145 population per km2 area (which is obviously low compared to
middle east countries and India), the population is too concentrated in certain areas. The urban
areas in China consists of over than 800 million people, which are concentrated in the East side
of the country. Meanwhile, the Javanese Island of Indonesia is currently the most populated
island in the world with almost 60% of the country’s population. Some areas like that may
already be modern and growing rapidly, but we also need to pay our attention to the areas that
are left out because they tend to have lower living standards. So, Indonesia and China need to
team up on developing two approaches: to improve the high-density modern approach for the
urban areas, and to improve the living quality in underdeveloped regional areas.
This is where Indonesia and China’s difference in the planning curriculum becomes an
advantage. China, at least by now, has better urban planning than Indonesia, partly because the
degree in urban planning in China is mostly given out in graduate level. On the other hand, lots
of Indonesian state universities already offer urban and regional planning as an undergraduate
program because Indonesia is currently short of planners. Yet, this doesn’t mean that the quality
of planners in Indonesia is bad. In fact, most state universities in Indonesia already send out their
undergraduate planning students on real expeditions to undeveloped regions in Indonesia so that
they may gain work experiences as a team. Second year urban and regional planning students
from ITB already went to various regions in Java for their field study. If Indonesia and China
were to cooperate, China can help more in the urban areas, while Indonesia can help in the
regional sector. This would also help youth planners from Indonesia to gain more experience.
An Essay for Write to China 2019

A Bond Leads to Another

The great thing about this cooperation is that it will lead us to cooperate in lots of other
fields too, and thus strengthening our bond even more. Let’s say, for example, the field of
infrastructure and architecture. If we’re planning to improve the high-density modern areas, we
need to construct buildings in a faster pace. In Indonesia, lots of plans to build apartments for the
poor remain blueprints until now. Why? It’s because the projects take too long to be built. Most
contractors concentrated the building process in the on-site construction. That way, how fast the
building is done relies too much on how fast the manpower can handle the work. Yet, the more
advanced technology in China can help Indonesian contractors to reduce the on-site construction
process. Back in 2015, a Chinese contractor company named WinSun successfully built a
mansion assembled from “pieces” made of a large 3D printer. If the government could cooperate
with the company to share the knowledge and equipment with Indonesia, it would surely help.
What’s more interesting is that the materials to make the building’s “pieces” were mixed
with recycle materials such as plastic waste, thus also helping solve the environmental problems
that both Indonesia and China are facing. Right now, China and Indonesia are currently the
world’s most pollutive countries in terms of plastic waste. In a year, China has about 8.8 million
tons of mismanaged plastics and 3.53 million tons thrown to the sea, while Indonesia has 3.2
million and 1.29 million respectively. The mass production of plastic (especially plastic bags)
and the absence of law regarding plastic use is what makes this number so big, and this number
will keep on growing—that is, if we keep on doing nothing.
Using the “pre-assembled” construction process will also help Indonesian in several other
ways. First, the human resources not needed for hard labor can be allocated for a work with
better wage and work safety control. Second, chance of corruption regarding construction
projects will be smaller because the pre-assembled parts will have clearer budget allocations and
reduces miscellaneous spending spent for the on-site process. Third, implementing this
technology to wood materials would make it an easier alternative for a sturdier yet faster-built
house for victims of environmental disasters that happen a lot lately in Indonesia. Architects
from China and Indonesia can even work together in combining the traditional Chinese temple—
which uses interlocking wood instead of adhesives—with the traditional Indonesian houses
which are simple yet strong against earthquakes and other environmental disasters.
An Essay for Write to China 2019

To an Everlasting Brotherhood
The Indonesia-China Panda Diplomacy back in 2017 showed us how Indonesians have
positively accepted and are enthusiast about the relationship with China. But, our over than 60
years of bilateral relationship shouldn’t just stop at saving endangered wildlife—it is time for us
to move to a field where we can directly get involved and contribute to each other’s society. It is
time for us to also build a stronger relationship through mutual understanding. And, as people
say and like, the ones with authority should be the one to reach out to the people.
One will end up being on the short end of the stick at times—but if it is our vision to
build an everlasting bond, both sides should try to sacrifice personal goals to achieve our
collective goals. It is as Confucius said more than 2000 years ago, “The superior man seeks what
is right. The inferior one seeks what is profitable.” It is our time to strengthen our bilateral
relationship with a full understanding that brothers should help each other—and that once
brothers, we will always be brothers.
An Essay for Write to China 2019


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