Why does populism not make populist foreign policy? Indonesia under Jokowi

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The consequences of populism on foreign policy have been a rising topic of academic inquiry in recent years. The latest literature exposes diverse propensities in the state governments’ international behaviour led by populist leaders. In comparison, foreign policies of populists in the Americas and Europe exhibit anti-elitism and anti-pluralism toward the outside world. Those in Asia tend to be populist domestically, not in foreign policy. This article focuses on the foreign policies of Asian populist government leaders and addresses the question as to why are their foreign policies sterile from populism? It presents the case of Indonesia under President Joko Widodo (Jokowi). The argument is that the enduring pragmatism and domestic constraints have hindered Jokowi's populist motive from shaping the role of the state foreign policy as the defender of the suppressed people against the repressive elite. Hence, Jokowi is unable to make any substantial change to the foreign policy of his non-populist predecessors, and he has to maintain Indonesia’s traditional foreign policy pillars. Nevertheless, the case of Jokowi's Indonesia can open up the space to challenge the established Euro-American scholarship advancing a positive connection between leaders’ populism and foreign policy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)634-652
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Journal of International Affairs
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Indonesia’s foreign policy
  • Jokowi
  • domestic constraints
  • populism
  • pragmatism
  • regional order creation


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