Australia tore up a set of agreements Wednesday linked to the contentious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with Beijing. The move is sure to provoke fury in China which has previously warned Canberra it will become the “poor white trash of Asia” unless it stops pushing back against the ruling Communist Party.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne issued a statement to announce the two controversial BRI deals were among four cancelled under Australia’s new Foreign Arrangements Scheme.
The cancellation was later confirmed by Australian government representatives posted overseas.
Alongside other announcements, Australia has cancelled the Framework Agreement and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of Victoria and the People's Republic of China on the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road Initiative.
— George Brandis (@AusHCUK) April 21, 2021
The other two were older agreements with Iranian and Syrian entities, canceled because they were “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy or adverse to our foreign relations.”
It’s the first time the new powers have been used by the conservative coalition government led by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, but Australian leaders have previously shown no hesitation in standing up to Chinese political and economic influence.
Australia confronted the World Health Organization over claims it supports so-called wet markets reopening in the Chinese city of Wuhan. https://t.co/TjH4HmGDzv
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) April 17, 2020
More than 1,000 existing and proposed foreign arrangements have been put to Payne by states and territories, local governments and public universities since the review launched on December 10.
ABC News reports Payne said she considered the China BRI arrangements with the southern state of Victoria to be “inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy” or “adverse to our foreign relations”.
“I will continue to consider foreign arrangements notified under the scheme,” she said. “I expect the overwhelming majority of them to remain unaffected.
“I look forward to ongoing collaboration with states, territories, universities and local governments in implementing the Foreign Arrangements Scheme.”
China Warns Australia: Drop Coronavirus Probe or Pay an Economic Price https://t.co/V54exGJuOT
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) April 27, 2020
The BRI is a massive network of Chinese-funded infrastructure projects — including new ports, pipelines, railways and highways — stretching from Asia to Europe and considered a key part of Xi Jinping’s desire to link Beijing with the global economy.
But Australia has become increasingly anxious that it has been used as a vehicle for cementing the Chinese Communist government’s influence and commercial interests across a vast swathe of the globe.