Explanation of the end of Australia’s Belt and Road Initiative

News analysis

On April 21, the Australian Government intervened to revoke the arrangement between Victoria’s Belt and Road Initiative and Beijing, stating that it was inconsistent with Australia’s foreign policy and national interests.

The move was made by a Chinese diplomat who said it would not help improve bilateral relations that were tense last year as Australia refused to kowtow on economic coercion and took steps to protect itself from Beijing’s interference. It was criticized.

Victoria’s Prime Minister Daniel Andrews’ state Labor administration has been relatively silent since federal intervention, but there is one expert and politician who supports the values ​​of classical liberalism at home and abroad. He supports the move with his state senator. say it “It was a great day for Australia.”

What is the Belt and Road Initiative?

BRI is a trillion-dollar dual-purpose infrastructure scheme of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) that will increase China’s revenues through financing schemes for infrastructure development while increasing China’s influence under CCP control. We are trying to increase and expand trade links around the world.

The CCP is also believed to have used this initiative to expand access to export markets, promote trade and promote the renminbi as a global currency.

This was first published in 2013 by the Chinese leader Xi Jinping name is derived from the concept of the “Silk Road economic belt” and “Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century”.

It aims to “achieve economic integration and interconnected development” between China and the world through a series of six major “corridors” and major maritime points, including China-Mongolia-Russia. I will. China-Central Asia-West Asia; China-Indochina Peninsula; China-Pakistan; Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar.

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A Belt and Road Initiative protest rally on the steps of the Victorian Parliament on June 7, 2020. (GraceYu / Epoch Times)

According to the report, about 70 countries have signed a BRI Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China. Australian person..

The key to this global expansion of China’s funding and power is that the CCP has promoted the use of Beijing-controlled state-owned enterprises (SOEs) for all BRI projects. This is achieved by lowering infrastructure bids or by providing out-of-service loans to projects that the country cannot afford, resulting in “debt trap diplomacy” and loss of business partner sovereignty. Will be done.

What is Debt-trap Diplomacy?

In recent years, many of the BRI projects funded through China’s state-owned lenders have left borrowers suffering from huge debt burdens, raising concerns about the concept of debt trap diplomacy.

For example, in December 2017, the Sri Lankan government agreed to hand over the entire Hambanthota Harbor to Beijing on a 99-year lease after Sri Lanka agreed to convert its $ 1.4 billion debt into shares.

The port of Hambantota in southern Sri Lanka was funded and constructed by China as part of the BRI initiative. It is also an important strategic point for dominating the Indian Ocean.

Similarly, in 2018, due to concerns over sovereignty, Sierra Leone completed a $ 400 million construction project for the airport, which would have been completely constructed, managed and maintained by China.

Epoch Times Photo
Road Construction Workers in Sri Lanka Construction workers will work along the roads in Colombo on August 5, 2018. On August 3, Sri Lanka’s central bank announced that it had secured a $ 1 billion Chinese loan as an island that is an important link between Beijing’s ambitious belt and roads. Develop closer relationships. (Lakruwan Wanniarachchi / AFP / Getty Images)

On May 24, 2020, then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Australia to investigate the BRI project “incredibly closely.”

“Often there are money lent at a concession fee, the terms stated in the debt document, or a government concession that must be made to the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.

He also warned Australia that the United States would “simply disconnect” from Australia if the Victorian BRI partnership with Beijing poses any risk to the telecommunications infrastructure.

“We take no risk to the communication infrastructure or national security factors with our Five Eyes partners. We intend to protect and maintain the security of those agencies,” he said.

According to Michael Clarke, associate professor at the Australian National University’s National Security College, the CCP draws political and economic concessions from countries such as the Pacific region, which poses national security risks to the western world. News Corporation report.

Risk of civil-military fusion

A further risk to BRI partner countries is that the CCP has decided to establish a civil-military doctrine (MCF). This means that China’s SOE can be used for military purposes at any time.

Founded by the Chinese Communist Party as a way to quickly modernize the PLA, this device not only facilitates the conversion of technology into defense applications, but also facilitates the participation of commercial enterprises in the defense industry.

As for the BRI initiative, it is in the form of a port and telecommunications infrastructure that the CCP can use to spy on and influence partner countries. This was the case in Djibouti, where China succeeded in securing strategic control of the port of Djibouti and establishing a military base as part of its construction.

Similarly, in Papua New Guinea (PNG), China’s SOE Huawei has deliberately used old encryption software by the PNG government to build a communications hub that turned out to be inadequate firewalls for PNG government records. I tried.

This allowed the Chinese Communist Party to spy on the country, a report commissioned by the PNG government said.

Why is Australia concerned?

The Belt and Road Initiative in Victoria was expected to end, but another reason for the move was to curb the growing influence of the Chinese Communist Party in the Australian region.

In August 2020, Commonwealth Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese, Andrews’ national correspondent, said the Chinese Communist Party is now a more “aggressive” force than the previous Chinese administration. Australian person report.

Albanese stated the National Labor Party’s position on the Belt and Road Initiative in Victoria, but he did not support it, but said the Chinese Communist Party was “very clearly” intervening in Australia’s national interests.

Anthony Albanese Australia
Australian Commonwealth Labor Party leader Anthony Albanese will speak at a press conference with MP Chris Bowen on August 3, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Brooke Mitchell / Getty Images)

“For example, I’ve seen various examples in college, and I’ve seen it work,” he said. “This is not a partisan issue.”

This sentiment was also reflected in Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who said the deal with foreign governments must benefit Australia.

“When it comes to dealing with the Australian world, it’s important for us to speak in one voice and work on one plan,” he said. “If they are inconsistent with national interests, they go.”

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Labor Senator Kimberly Kitcheng in the Senate of the Canberra Parliament on Monday, June 15, 2020. (AAP Image / Mick Tsikas)

On April 22, Victorian Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching said that agreements with foreign governments should be made by the federal government, not the state.

“The federal government is constitutionally mandated under Article 51 of the Constitution to deal with the country’s diplomacy,” she said. Sky news..

“The problem with the BRI agreement here is, of course, that we know that the Victorian memorandum was used by the CCP to sprout our neighbors in our area and they too were used to conclude the BRI agreement. think.”

BRI Fracturing Western Allies

New Zealand has expressed its resistance to the Five Eyes Alliance, which diverges outside of sharing information to discuss human rights issues, and New Zealand appears to be changing its position towards China.

“We are uncomfortable with expanding the powers of the Five Eyes. We want to look for multilateral opportunities to express our interests,” she said on April 19. I told reporters on the day.

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Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta and Australian Foreign Minister Marize Payne speak to the media at a press conference in Wellington, New Zealand on April 22, 2021. (Hagen Hopkins / Getty Images)

In March 2017, New Zealand became the first Western country. Code Non-binding Memorandum of Understanding (MoA) to participate in BRI. Since 2017, China has been New Zealand’s largest trade, with 29% of its exports dependent on communist countries.

The day after the Australian Foreign Minister rejected Victoria’s BRI agreement, a joint meeting with the New Zealand Foreign Minister was held.

At a meeting on April 22, New Zealand’s Mahuta said the Five Eyes Alliance was “not always needed on all issues” as the “first port of call” in building a coalition of support on specific issues in the human rights sector. “. Mahuta added that New Zealand needs to “maintain and respect” China’s “specific customs, traditions and values.”

Mr. Muffta’s remarks seem to reflect US President Joe Biden’s comments at CNN’s Town Hall in February, when he was discussing the Uighur massacre in China. “There are different norms,” ​​he said.

“Culturally, there are different norms that countries and they (their leaders) are expected to follow,” Biden said.

The ambiguous nature of comments caused confusion. That’s because Biden could be part of the “different norms” of communist China, so it was interpreted to mean that genocide seemed fine.

Similarly, Mahuta’s comments elicited criticism from British politicians who saw New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern as a signal that he had “roughly sucked into China and withdrew the Five Eyes Agreement.”

According to Michael Schubridge, director of defense at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, this will put New Zealand on a clash course with its Western allies.

“”[New Zealand] You will find that their policy framework conflicts with their values ​​and interests, even if their purpose is to protect them. [New Zealand’s] “China trade,” he told The Epoch Times.

“While quietly assuring Five Eyes partners that everything is going well, guaranteeing Beijing the same is sustainable unless China fundamentally changes direction under Chinese leader Xi. Not. “

Meanwhile, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne added that New Zealand has the right to decide on its own response to China’s human rights issues: And globally — it has changed in recent years. “