VICTORIA REWRITES PLAN
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has recently travelled to China to sign a new framework agreement with the country, further extending controversial trade relationships across the state.
Meeting with China’s National Development and Reform Commission, the aim includes “fast-tracking co-operation between China and Victoria on infrastructure, innovation, aged care and trade”.
The document states Victoria and China will work together to “inject new momentum” to “achieve common development and promote connectivity of policy, infrastructure, trade, finance and people”.
Since beginning, the state has seen a dramatic surge in deals that have helped create a $10bn Chinese-Victorian export market, raising concerns over Chinese influence in Australia.
The last 12 months have also marked a sharp turn in domestic views of the initiative, which have been welcomed by the Chinese and praised by the Premier:
“In four years we have more than tripled Victoria’s share of Chinese investment in Australia and nearly doubled our exports to China. We said we’d reboot our relationship with China and we’re getting it done.”
Mr Andrews was the only state premier to be invited to the recent Belt and Road Forum, which took place in China last year and set the tone for future trade plans for the nation.
Australia’s official stance has been to not be part of the divisive trillion-dollar investment initiative, with Victoria acting outside of federal advice when committing to the plan just over a year ago.
Senior national security figures have often warned of serious strategic consequences if Australia formally signs up, although various investment projects seem to have had some form of involvement.
The Premier has revealed Australia’s peak intelligence agency ASIO is monitoring the initiative, as the state prepares to rewrite its trade strategy with China due to unprecedented export agreements.
CONNECTING THE WORLD
Under the plan, first unveiled in 2013, China wants to revive an ancient network of land and ocean silk trade routes and has already spent billions of dollars on new infrastructure projects for roads, railways, ports and maritime corridors.
China’s policy is aimed at investing large sums of money in infrastructure development in the area between the two Silk Roads, in an effort to join them together and create one ordered area.
This extends beyond mere economic activity, however, and includes establishing a whole host of rules, from cultural exchange to the movement of people.
The infrastructure being built by China will not only contribute to economic development in the region, it will also help to improve connectivity throughout Eurasia — enabling China’s military to secure an effective means for communication and movement of troops in a contingency.
Mr Andrews said the Belt and Road Initiative was about attracting Chinese-owned companies, such as John Holland and CPB Contractors, to build Victorian infrastructure.
In March 2018, the Center for Global Development, a U.S. think tank based in Washington, published a fascinating report that claimed that China was posing a severe risk to the finances of a number of countries as a result of its aid activities and excessive lending.
The report went on to list seven specific countries whose finances are at serious risk: Mongolia, Laos, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, the Maldives, Djibouti, and Montenegro.
So far, 68 countries (including New Zealand) have signed up to the signature project of President Xi, which marks his nation’s plans to expand its power in the region and beyond.’
Victoria’s commitment to the program has sparked further tensions over Chinese involvement in key pieces of Australian land, infrastructure and resources — which continues to grow.
China’s influence in Australia throughout the last decade has been unprecedented.
For a country that just wants calm commerce with China, the revelations of the past fortnight have delivered a jolt in an already unsteady relationship in the public’s eye.
The New York Times signaled these findings as the “end of a let’s get rich together era”, yet many critics say the damage has already been done across Australia.
For example, Cheung Kong Infrastructure now controls – with the 100% Chinese government-owned State Grid – nearly all of Australia’s east coast energy distribution assets.
Of Australia’s eight states and territories, only three governments retain full ownership of all elements of their electricity networks: Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
Furthermore, China has bought up significant portions of Australian land and infrastructure, including ports, farms, airports, businesses and much more.
China also holds a large stake in Australian water entitlements as part of the failed Murray-Basin Plan, leaving 10% of national water reserves in the control of foreign entities.
When is it time to finally sound the alarm?
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ASIO keeping tabs on state’s China deal | The Australian
Suddenly, the Chinese Threat to Australia Seems Very Real | The New York Times
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