A glimpse of Mao and the INDONESIAN Sept. 30 Movement (Part 1 of 2)
“China and the Sept. 30 Movement”
Senior editor Dahana’s article refers to a paper written by a Chinese scholar, Taomo Zhou, entitled China and the 30th September Movement.Dahana writes that the interesting part of Dr. Zhou’s paper — written for her PhD thesis in history at Cornell University — was that the writer was able to reveal China’s foreknowledge about the Sept. 30, 1965, coup attempt.She wrote that as early as Aug. 1, 1965, Indonesian Communist Party (PKI) chairman DN Aidit visited Beijing and met with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, Chen Yi and others.
Another source describes Aidit’s meeting with Mao and other Chinese leaders. Mao’s voluminous biography titled Mao: The Unknown Story by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday (London, 2005) gives a glimpse of the Mao-Aidit relationship. I dined with the authors when they visited Jakarta in July 2005 and took extensive notes of our conversation. The 814-page biography has references to Aidit and the Indonesian situation in 1965 (pages 519, 520).Mao’s special attention to Indonesia in 1965 requires an explanation.
His international ambitions were on the rise and he was keen that China should dominate the second African-Asian Conference (AAC), scheduled for June 1965 in Algiers.The first AAC took place in Bandung in April 1955 with a fiery opening speech by then president Sukarno, instantaneously making him “Leader of the Third World”. But the real diplomacy of the first AAC was conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s prime minister.He practically chaperoned Zhou Enlai, leader of the People’s Republic of China’s delegation and China’s foreign minister.
Zhou invited the US to open a dialogue with China, to ensure peace in the East Asia/Pacific region.
But as difficult as these stories are to hear, there were also stories of resilience and hope.
He introduced Zhou to several African and Asian leaders, particularly those countries which tended to lean toward the US. Zhou reciprocated by delivering a soft speech stressing that China’s foreign policy was based on “peaceful co-existence” with other countries. He even invited the US to open a dialogue with China, to ensure peace in the East Asia/Pacific region.
Now Mao, keen to dominate the second AAC, ordered Zhou to ensure that China would play a dominant role in Algiers.
However, 10 days before the opening of the second AAC, the then popular Algerian prime minister Ahmed Ben Bella was overthrown by a military coup led by Col. Houari Boumediene. Mao dropped Ben Bella like a hot potato and ordered Zhou to approach the new military government to ensure that the conference went ahead as scheduled.But the vast majority of the AAC members preferred a postponement and was reluctant to go to Algiers where the host would be a military leader. Even Egypt’s president Gamal Abdel Nasser preferred a postponement and wanted the Soviet Union to be invited since some of its republics were in Asian territory.
Mao was furious with the prospect of an indefinite postponement. He needed a success story to face down his domestic rivals. He attempted to leech onto existing conflicts in Asia. Pakistan’s war with India seemed to be a potential opportunity since Pakistan was close to China. But Pakistan at the last minute accepted a UN mediated cease-fire.The next opportunity was Indonesia.
Halliday, who had interviewed Kenji Miyamoto, leader of the Japanese Communist party, who was close with Mao, said Mao kept cajoling Aidit to seize power in Indonesia. Miyamoto told Halliday that Mao kept pushing the PKI and the Japanese Communist party to seize power. The message from Beijing was: “Whenever there is a chance to seize power, you must rise up in armed struggle”.
However, since their book concentrated on Mao’s biography much of Miyamoto’s interesting information regarding the Mao-Aidit relations could not be included.Miyamoto, much older than Aidit, warned him not to be too hasty in initiating a revolution. Miyamoto, who distanced himself from armed methods to initiate social and political changes, favored bread-and-butter issues since the Japanese Communist party was influential in the lower house of the Diet. Meanwhile, a serious crisis occurred at the presidential palace on Aug. 4, 1965, in Jakarta. Sukarno fell ill, kept vomiting and became unconscious.
Aidit who was in Beijing was informed and immediately flew back to Jakarta with two senior Chinese medical doctors.
The writer is Sabam Siagian, Jakarta senior editor at The Jakarta Post. He was the founding chief editor of the paper from 1983-1991.